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Image by Daniel Schludi

The ultimate sonic brand?

Trust, Saliency, Purpose.

These are some of the cornerstones of iconic brands - and while everyone seems to be running around like headless chickens having just ‘discovered’ the power of music as a distinctive brand asset, some brands have been religiously using music with phenomenal effect for a long time.

A couple of millennia in fact.

While belief in the concept of a single god is widespread across the world, there are multiple competing brands/religions all requiring followers to further their missions. Over 85% of the world are religious (the same percentage who own a smartphone). And while belief in a higher power is almost universal, there is an ongoing brand battle that has raged across millennia.

Of all the religious brands, it is Christianity that tops the table with a 31% global market share. Islam is not far behind with 25%.

So, let’s apply a brand analysis to the market leader – what has it done – in addition to its core purpose, to achieve a level of trust and appeal that puts it so far ahead of all others?

  • Logo: A simple iconic cross, full of symbolism and seamlessly tied into the core brand character and storytelling. It is Apple-like in its simplicity and, for its followers and detractors, it has phenomenal brand salience.

  • Brand character: Son of brand, a truly visionary leader, entirely relatable and selfless, who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the customers.

  • Purpose: For all customers to be like him. The very best version of themselves. Compelling and enticing.

  • Product: forgiveness of sins and eternal life/salvation – totally selfish but wonderfully compelling. Plus - love thy neighbour and treat others as you wish to be treated - entirely selfless but hugely aspirational.

  • Storytelling: The greatest story ever told. Man sets out to save the world, falls into a deep dark helpless hole, is redeemed (even better, resurrected) and does indeed end up saving the world. A classic.

  • Multisensory marketing: A truly integrated strategy engaging every single sense, from incense burning for smell, the touch when being blessed by a priest, the taste of the communion wine and even the sixth sense – a direct telepathic connection to god.

But it’s the use of sound where Christianity really excels. From the very start, Christianity has gone big on sonic branding and marketing. From a near monopoly of bells to a host of brand anthems, Christianity has never settled on a mere ‘I’m lovin it’ sonic logo.

Indeed, Christianity has managed to dominate an entire sonic genre – even if you are unfamiliar with a hymn, chant or incantation it will almost certainly immediately bring the Christian brand to mind - whether you are a customer or not.

As Ludwig van Beethoven observed: “Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit”. As such it is the perfect interface between earthly reality and a higher power, enabling customers to inhabit the present moment more fully, transforming their mental state and enabling a fuller and richer experience of their emotions.

But it gets better, not content with a broadcast approach to sonic strategy, Christianity has also persuaded the customers to sing the brand anthems out loud (every week), ensuring a deep emotional connection with the brand while forging a strong sense of community. Even smarter, the lyrics are all about giving praise and thanks to the brand itself. Phenomenal customer engagement. As a result, sonic brand saliency is through the roof.

This collective auditory participation not only creates a strong sense of community but is also supremely effective in turning many of the customers into selfless brand ambassadors.

It is hugely impressive how Christianity has so effectively harnessed every tool in the marketers toolbox to create a brand with such powerful emotional bonds. Yes, it’s a compelling product, but as can be seen from the above, this has been backed by a truly multisensory approach to branding and remarkable emotional consistency that has remained consistent across the centuries.

But of all the distinctive brand assets, it is by harnessing the subconscious power of music that has enabled it to elevate the symbolism and ritual of the brand to an unmatched level of emotional engagement with the customers.

This was perhaps best observed by Carl W. Buehner (a high ranking leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) when he wrote, over 50 years ago:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

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