Inteluenza – a Sound Signature disease

By now it is quite common that logos are accompanied by sound – sometimes the sound alone is enough to conjure up the logo in your mind, and then we are dealing with a sound signature with optimal association effect.

The optimal sound signature is:

Clear because it has to be clearly delimited from and exposed without other distracting noise. If the sound signature is accompanied by another sound, it will often water down the connection between the logo and the sound and thereby impede the association effect.

Short because the exposure of logos is normally pretty short and because the sound has to be adjusted to as many communicative touch-points as possible: TV and radio commercials, websites, conference materials, phone lines etc. etc.

Edgy because it must be identified as belonging to one specific logo, and not just any logo. It therefore has to have a cutting edge to the sounds of the competitors.

There is not enough cutting edge

In todays’ TV-commercials there is not a brand worth its salt that does not have a logo with a matching sound signature. The increasing prevalence is a huge challenge for producers of sound signature. Even though it is relatively simple to produce clear and short sound signatures, it is hard to create an edge, because of the short exposure.


The Intel-bacteria

The Inteluenza epidemic has clearly shown that there is not enough edge. Inteluenza is a widespread Sound Branding disorder, which is recognizable in the following symptoms: a non-accompanied 2-7 notes melody with duration of about 2 seconds performed with distinct strikes – usually through a “synthetic”, apparently computer produced timbre. Sound signatures that to a varying degree suffer from Inteluenza, can for example be heard in TV-commercials for Danske Spil, Super Best, Telia, Fakta, JYSK, El-Giganten, McDonald’s, Opel, and Føtex.

Inteluenza stems from the Sound Bacteria, which Intel diffused worldwide through advertisements 20 years ago. See and listen to a copy here

It infected a large part of its generation of sound signatures and we are still hearing echoes from today. So, Inteluenza is tenacious and the bacterium has shown to be rather resistant against antidotes like for example fantasy, creativity and courage.

Inteluenza is not directly fatal. However, an Inteluenza affected sound signature is very weak and in imminent danger of either, to be confused with all sorts of sound signatures and call signals from airports, supermarkets and the like, or simply to be (over)heard as unoriginal, boring and unambitious – an experience which of course rub off on the interpretation of the logo and the brand.



If the company chooses to have a melodious sound signature – and as indicated, this is what many do these days – they have to protect themselves against the Inteluenza. They can do this by listening to the following brands, which all focused on producing sound signatures with a cutting edge:

• The Sound Signature varies distinctively lengthwise and crosswise – for instance, take a look at the advertisements for McDonalds.

• The Sound Signature alters over time - for instance, take a look at the advertisements for McDonalds and Føtex, of what the latter consists of an instrumental version of the six last tones of the “Føtex-song”.

• The Sound Signature appears with specific meaning-producing relations to a slogan and maybe an animated logo – for instance, the commercilas for Danske Spil where the Sound Signature’s 3-toned melody is matching the accent in the name of the brand and is synchronized with the “jumping” of the dice.

• The Sound Signature is communicated in an alternative sound version other than the typical – for instance, take a look at the advertisements for Opel where a clip of a guitar riff from an old Eric Clapton hit appears.

• The Sound Signature emerges from – or appears as a culmination of – other music in the course of the TV-commercial – for instance, take a look at the advertisements for JYSK.

• The Sound Signature presents itself with a reference to a piece of pre-existing music – for instance, take a look at the advertisements for Opel (Eric Claptons’ ”Layla”) and JYSK (the Danish traditional song: “The Jutlander is strong and tough”).



If the action has to be preventive and not just relieving the sound signature has to be characterized by other elements than just the melody – because as I stated earlier the Inteluenza symptoms are often related to the presence of melody. This type of prevention can, for example, be seen in TV-commercials for Nissan where the sound signature is represented by tone rather than the melody.

The sound signature can also be represented by a sound effect, which for example can be heard in TV-commercials for Netto that draws on the sound from an old-fashioned cash register .

In a number of other examples, it is a human whispering voice that acts as sound signature in connection with the recital of the brand name and slogan – take a look at advertisements for Panasonic and Citroën .

However, there is a more effective – and ultimate – preventive action against Inteluenza. That is, to completely leave out the sound signature, as for instance VW have chosen to do in their current advertisements:

A radical initiative like this seems consistent with the widespread bon mot in the literature on sound branding: No sound is better than bad sound.


Examples of Sound Signature



T Mobile




Danske Spil


Small essay on the different shapes of Sound Branding:

Sound branding – some samples

Guess the logo behind the sound: