How To

May 31, 2024

How to develop an audio identity

Maatin Adewunmi, founder of Loud Parade, shares his top tips for setting yourself apart from the crowd with a clear sound identity

“A sonic identity means strategically using sound to create a cohesive — and recognisable — auditory representation of a brand,” says Maatin Adewunmi, founder of sound identity platform Loud Parade. “It’s important to consider because, nowadays, sound is often the first way a consumer interacts with a new brand.”

Here are his top tips for getting started with building an audio identity.

Set yourself apart from the crowd

Even at the early stages of startup life, sound identity should be a part of your branding strategy. Invest in building recognition and loyalty — if your startup needs to stand out in a crowded market, having a distinctive voice from the start can give you the edge. Brands that have recognisable sonic identities see an average 5% increase in their perceived value and a similar increase in consumer purchase intent.

Figure out what you need

A sonic identity can be made up of many components, including:

  • Sonic logos: a short, distinctive sound or melody that is a musical version of a visual logo, like Netflix’s ‘tudum’ or French public transport SNCF’s sound.
  • Brand music: original music compositions or soundtracks created specifically for your brand.
  • Soundscapes: audio environments or landscapes created to put your audience in a particular mood, atmosphere or setting can enhance immersion and create a sense of place. An example of this is Mindfulness app Calm’s nature soundscapes that help you relax when you open the app.
  • UI sounds: auditory cues used in digital interfaces such as mobile apps, websites or software to provide feedback or guidance to users. This can include sounds linked to button clicks, notifications, error alerts and other interactive elements to enhance the user experience.
  • Jingles: short, catchy tunes or melodies often used in advertising. They need to be easy to remember. If you’re British, you’ll probably be able to sing the 118 or GoCompare’s jingle.
  • Product sounds: audio cues associated with a specific product or device. Think of startup sounds when you turn a device on, for example Microsoft Windows' distinct chime. There are also alerts or feedback sounds generated by the product. ATMs are a perfect example of this.

Figure out what your primary goal is and then select one or two components to start with.

Define your core brand values

You should know what type of emotions, personality and characteristics your brand should convey before trying to figure out your sound. What is the message you want the audience to gain from ‘hearing’ your startup? Are you fun and playful or serious and trustworthy? Are you trying to convey sadness or joy? Do you want them to feel pumped and ready to go or want them to relax?


Research your target audience

This includes preferences and listening habits. You should also consider what types of sounds resonate with them and most align with their brand:

  • See what’s trending on TikTok with your target audience.
  • Speak to them directly. What do they think of other brands and their audio branding? What do they associate your brand with? What do they want and need?
  • Hold focus groups to test out different options.

Collaborate with experts

To reflect your brand identity, hire people who know how to translate messaging to audio. Consider working with music psychologists and audio branding experts. There are also music creative agencies who do this. Work with musicians and sound designers as well to ensure the sound is your own.

Be consistent

Once you have a sound identity, treat it like any other brand asset, such as a logo or colour profile. Use it consistently across all touchpoints, including ads, social media and proprietary apps.

Don’t rely on AI

Yes, AI can do a lot, quickly and cheaply. But it’s not always the best option. You also need to be aware of copyright infringement risks, as algorithms are often trained on copyrighted data which can lead to lawsuits. For example, Sony Music recently sent letters to more than 700 companies saying it has ‘reason to believe’ they ‘may already have made unauthorised uses’ of Sony’s music. This only signals the start of other challenges from corporations.

Check out companies who’ve done it well

Gain inspiration and understanding from studying tech companies that have invested in sonic branding. Examples include:

  • Fitness platform Peloton has specific sound cues and uses music tracks in its workout sessions.
  • Fintech Monzo uses notification sounds to confirm transactions.
  • Dating app Bumble has distinctive sounds for matches, messages and other interactions.

On the subject of… audio branding

1. Brands will only be able to compete with the help of AI. 

2. Is sound actually that important? 

3. Get it right for social media. The right sounds for TikTok can make your brand go viral. 

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn