Listen Up! Sound Affects Content!

Sound is often the most overlooked aspect of your marketing content. Yet, the right sound can deliver huge impact for your brand in highly valuable and emotional ways. Many companies already recognize this. You probably could easily hum the Nationwide jingle better than Payton Manning or “ding-dong” the familiar three-note NBC theme.  If you hear a stopwatch, chances are you might think CBS’ 60 Minutes or if you’re anywhere near the age of 50, you should be able finish the lyrics of this tune with ease, “Plop! Plop! Fizz! Fizz!----“ 

We make powerful associations with sound and it helps us remember. It’s why every time we travel near the ocean we jokingly imitate the theme from Jaws or when someone fires up an Apple computer and it chimes, for some inexplicable reason, I feel compelled to sing, “I just died in your arms tonight!” (It's weird I know.) 

The sound you use can create excitement, immediate identification, mood and emotion. It stimulates our visual imagination (boom!) and helps deliver meaning (creaking door or a phone ring in the middle of the night). As we scramble to create excellent relevant video content, it’s important to remember that nothing ruins your video quicker than poorly designed sound.  It's also important to remember that sound remains a formidable way to connect with your customers. Marketing gurus Ries and Trout wrote years ago that "the mind works by the ear not the eye." Sound will deliver the overall mood for your video marketing projects. So hear these notes to make your content sound better. 

There are four basic sound elements in the production toolbox: music, sound effects (SFX), voice/dialogue and silence. Each one brings a unique flavor to your production. Music sets the mood. Your speech must be clear, concise and conversational. SFX can enhance narrative circumstances, offer a sense of space/place, or help visualize action. Silence can add serious drama or comedic beat.  

London's Grand Central Recording Studios demonstrates how the same exact visual images can be dramatically altered when you simply change the soundtrack. Each of the three versions creates a different emotional experience.

All are those elements are important to supporting your message (and much more could be written) but it’s the music that can have the most immediate impact. 

Music Choice Matters. How do you want your audience to feel? Happy? Upbeat? Serious? The mood and emotion of your music will take your audience there. Whatever you choose it has to fit the rest of the video. If your music sounds frantic, your video will be frantic. If it's quirky, then your video will be quirky. If you use something that sounds like the Beatles your video will evoke images of them and the 60’s, regardless of your visual content. Your music must serve a purpose and support theme of your message. Use it to reinforce your production. Don’t just use it because you think you have to use it. Sometimes you could be better off without it.

Music is powerful and shapes our behavior.  A well-known 1997 study demonstrated that when German music was played in a wine store, people bought more German wine, but when French music was played, they bought more French wine.  One of those same researchers later showed that the style of music even influences the taste of wine.  

 Okay, so both examples are John Williams.

More proof? Imagine Schindler's list without the haunting violin of Itzhak Perlman. Or just try changing the music to the beginning of a Star Wars movie with some ragtime music as this clever radio ad did. They wanted to demonstrate the power of John Williams' music for an upcoming concert several years ago. As you can hear, music choice matters.

Sound helps shape the theme of your branding. It creates excitement or immediate identification. It affects the way we behave and makes us feel something. It delivers oodles of mood and emotion. If it’s done right (like Hitchcock's Rear Window), you can make a three-minute project feel like one.

You can always close your eyes, but it's really hard to close your ears. Sound is one of the most effective ways to help establish a personal connection with your brand and your customers. If you ignore sound, you may perhaps asking the same impact question as Marvin the Martian. "Where's the Kaboom? Where's the earth shattering kaboom?"


Oh and one more thing. Make sure your video has a definitive strong musical ending/sting.  No wimpy fade outs. It's a pet peeve shared by many folks (Right, David Christian?!)

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About the Author
Mark Seignious, M.A., realizes his last name is a bit of an eye-chart. But, it rhymes with genius. Of course, after reading this post or others, you'll immediately just rhymes. He enjoys writing for Slate and Main plus shaping young minds as an Associate Professor at the University of Northwestern- St Paul. Insert Law and Order bump-bump here.