Intel, Netflix, Apple And The Power And Influence Of Sonic Branding

Twenty-two years ago, three seconds of audio comprised of five musical notes was written to help a tech brand with its marketing. Today, you can’t think of Intel without hearing the iconic “Intel Inside Bong.” You’ve heard it so many times, even with different variations, but the core five note progression is always the same. How can something so simple be so effective? Well, when you really examine Intel’s use of the mnemonic, you realize that it’s hugely associated with its brand, and its success. What you hear are adjectives that the company wants you to associate with Intel: A modern, trustworthy, sleek, intelligent, simple and efficient brand. According to Walter Werzowa, the composer of the Intel theme, the mnemonic is worth millions of dollars, which shouldn’t be surprising to anybody. Werzowa worked closely with Intel to craft the theme in 1994 – today, it’s older than most college students!

I reached out to Yogiraj Graham, Director of Production for Intel Global Production Labs, who explained, “The Intel bong is one of the most powerful assets we have. We’re always looking for ways to showcase the amazing experiences that Intel enables, and the Intel bong sound helps keep our messaging consistent.”

Apple is another brand that has prioritized crafting beautiful sounds for their users to associate with their experience. Whether you are scrolling through the soothing sounds of your Apple TV on a lazy Sunday, rebooting your computer at work or receiving a highly-anticipated text message, you are met with pleasant and carefully thought out sonic branding.

Netflix has also done an amazing job with their logo mnemonic, which I’ve heard is a nod to Frank Underwood’s infamous double table knock in House of Cards.

There are so many more–AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail,” the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It,” Nationwide’s “Nationwide is on your side,” the THX “Deep Note,” NBC’s “Chimes”—all are powerful examples of logo branding. With a mention of the name, you can hear the brand.

According to the Harvard Business Review, research presented at the 2012 Audio Branding Congress showed that “congruent sound cues can increase the speed of a visual search for products (a key for success in both online and retail settings), as well as improve the perceived taste of food and wine.” In addition, “the strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales.”

In a world where every company feels the mandatory importance of visual logos, you have to wonder why there are still plenty of brands that don’t take advantage of this incredible branding tool.

One hurdle is that the process of creating your own sound and logo mnemonic can be challenging and expensive for brands. If you’re not confident with music/sound direction, it may be much easier to pick apart what isn’t working, rather than creating your own brief for a composer to work with. This is why industry leaders attempt to simplify the process. If you can speak in your native language about the general marketing strategy for your company and how you want to be portrayed, a great sonic branding firm can translate that into sound. Experts in the industry close deals up to the high six figures for their professional services. A package often includes the core melody (let’s use the five notes from Intel, for example) and then additional versions with various instrumentations for different moods (an acoustic version, an electronic version, a full version, a simplified version etc.). The mnemonic must be built to scale, from massive stadiums or to a mobile device, the quality must be exceptional.

So how can you keep a long-standing mnemonic fresh? Earlier this year, in collaboration with ad agency mcgarrybowen (music production by Jerry Krenach & Jean Scofield), Intel launched a global TV spot using an inventive musical adaptation created by the mnemonic legend himself, Werzowa.  According to Graham, “With a mixture of pride and humility, [Werzowa] once said to me, ‘The Intel bong is the emperor of Mnemonics.’  I think he’s right.  We hold it dear and recognize its power.  The piece of music he created for our campaign brought together Beethoven’s  5th symphony and the sound of the Intel bong.  The desire was for people to hear those 5 notes in a completely new way.  The result was extraordinary.” Hear it below:

Will you or your company inspire the next “Intel Inside” logo mnemonic?


Jordan Passman