The Hidden Persuader: Sound Marks as Sonic Indicators of Source

By Anna L. King and Luke S. Curran

©2017. Published in Landslide, Vol. 10, No. 1, September/October 2017, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Our living environment is controlled by electronic devices. Historically, we interacted with these devices visually, via computer, smartphone, and even smartwatch screens.1 However, it appears that our capacity for such screens peaked as new technologies are being developed (and quickly adopted) for voice-activated controls and systems.2 With the rising demand for hands-free (e.g., Apple’s “Siri” and Microsoft’s “Cortana”) and screen-free electronics and personal assistants (e.g., Amazon Echo’s “Alexa,” Google Home powered by Google Assistant, Xfinity’s voice-activated remote control, and home automation systems), the ability to effectively distinguish these products through the use of sound as an indicator of source will undoubtedly grow in importance. Do you recognize the sound of Netflix’s timpani strikes when its streaming services are initiated,3 Apple’s rapid two-tone repetition sound when Siri is engaged,4 or maybe Intel’s five-note chime?5 These are prime examples of sound marks that are the result of effective sonic branding campaigns.

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