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Oct 28, 2008 | Comments

Remember jingles? Annoying? Yes. Catchy? Definitely.

Oddly, the jingle is not dead. In fact, it is used by contemporary companies in an attempt to differentiate their brand in a communication-saturated marketplace. The International Audio Blog claims that it creates an emotional link, or more simply, an audio imprint in your customer’s mind. Just as a corporate logo can evoke certain feelings (i.e., trust, sex appeal), so too can a sound.

Sound Branding (1900-2000)

Popular corporate sounds from the last century:

NBC – popular xylophone sound
MGM – roaring lion sound played before any MGM film
Intel – chimes used in every Intel commercial
AOL – you’ve got mail sound.
Pillsbury – Pop ‘N’ Fresh “Ho Ho”

Each of these sounds are at the very least “iconic.” Though they are dated (NBC’s chime debuted in 1931), every company currently incorporates the same audio into their branding. This translates into long-term equity with consumers, rivaling the success of logos and even the best commercials.

New Sounds (2000-2008)

Leap Frog Sound
AFLAC – duck quacking “AFLAC”
Tivo – popping sounds
Xbox – (sound at beginning of clip)
Playstation – (sound at beginning of clip)

These sounds are under ten years old, and each brand incorporates the audio into all of their customer communication (i.e., commercials, product design).

American Express’s “Sound”

What does American Express sound like? Apparently like this.

The sound is only used on AmEx’s web page—not to be found in any other communications. Corebrand, a branding consultancy, compares it to a “start-up” sound, similar to the audio used when beginning a Macintosh or Windows operating system. Will it have any impact on the American Express’s brand and site experience, or will it be an annoyance and fade into the advertising noise? The sound has been on americanexpress.com for about one month now with mixed responses from the users. Time will tell whether audio branding will have any impact.

Twitter comments on American Express’s sound:
killingtime: american express website: ajax bill pay = kinda cool, playing a moronic sound when you log in or do something is pretty stupid
jazzychad: well this is brilliant. the american express website plays a sound when you load the homepage. “Hey everyone! I’m logging into my account!”
twingonautWhy does American Express now have sound effects on the website? Wierd!

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  • Nancy

    Overall a good idea to add another dimension to a relatively unexciting website; however opportunity was not maximized as the sounds they chose were pretty random. Doesn't really say anything about the brand or what Amex represents. The first time I heard it, I thought I had a virus or that my computer had started logging off on me.

    If they were trying to reinforce the concept of being a CardMEMBER, I think a shared aural identity can be an interesting idea, but again, they'd have to rethink what sounds they use and when they use them. Could be good if you're trying to emphasize Amex as a lifestyle brand; could be bad if you think of Amex as a payment vehicle (in which case you wouldn't want to publicize your bill pay).

    As for the jingle they use for bill pay: is it a reward for paying your bill, or an annoying reminder of your expenditures?

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