Listen! We need to talk about sound

When producing video, games or learning content, is sound a key part to your process, or is it an after thought? We all know sound is a necessary part of production, but can it really add value to your projects? Not everyone processes and stores information visually, some people absorb information better through auditory reception, so in order to reach a wider audience, we will examine why great sound design can add value to a project, and reach maximum audience engagement.

Take a moment to imagine the iconic shower scene from Psycho without music (or better yet, watch this comparison). It doesn’t quite have the same effect, does it? Interestingly, the director, Alfred Hitchcock, originally wanted to have the motel scenes in the film play out completely without a score, only sound effects. He was dogmatic in his belief that the impact of the scenes should come through image, not music. It was only when Hitchcock saw the rough cut of the film that he realised that the scenes required sound to affect the audience the way he had intended.

We can apply the same principle to advertising, games, television, and even e-learning. We want our content to have an effect on our consumers, and influence what they think and buy. A good commercial engages both visual and auditory senses, affecting the viewer on a deeper level than printed ads. Sound is an easy way to generate an emotional response from the viewer, which in turn makes them much more likely to remember what they saw and talk about it with others. Music is one of the few things that are universally appreciated, therefore making it a powerful marketing tool that we should not be so quick to ignore.

“The brain processes sound faster than light, so it is the medium that reaches the subconscious more quickly and more effectively. Sound can often evoke and elicit emotion better than pictures. This is because sound tells the audience what to feel – it is vital for complete and good communication.” Johnny Mindlin, owner of the sound production company Green-Shoot.

A good example of this is John Lewis’ Christmas campaigns. Each year they stick to the same format, and it works, setting social media abuzz with people discussing the campaign. Their 2013 advert used Lily Allen’s cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, and the track shot to the top of the singles chart. After the commercial was launched the department store’s sales in the five weeks to the end of December rose by 13%, proving that a combination of image with powerful sound can really drive consumers into your business.

Using sound can also increase brand recognition. Think about it – there’s a huge amount of brands that most of us would be able to recognise just from their jingle or music. Buyology Inc. and Elias Arts, a sound identity company in New York, measured the galvanic, pupil, and brainwave responses of 50 volunteers to various sounds, using the latest neuroscience-based research methods. The research found that some of the most recognisable and addictive sounds came not from nature, but from brands. The jingle used in Intel advertising came second only to the sound of a baby laughing, with McDonald’s and MTV’s jingles also making the top 10. The reason why jingles work is because they familiarise the viewer with the brand, gaining their confidence. Most of us are more likely to buy from a brand we know and trust rather than a brand we have never heard of before.

One of the most important reasons you should think more about sound in your video content? Entertainment. This seems obvious, yet so many projects fall short on this front. You want to entertain your customers, and in doing so prompt discussions and product recall, so if you can do that on more than just a visual level, why wouldn’t you? The best example of this is Cadbury’s ‘drumming gorilla’ commercial, the creatives behind it had to really think about sound right at the beginning of production, as the gorilla would be drumming in time with Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’. The commercial didn’t show the product it was advertising, yet helped Cadbury’s grow their revenue by 5% during 2007, as it was hugely popular among consumers at the time. The ad is still well-loved – showing that a well-considered piece of music can make your campaign stand the test of time.

So, with these things considered, it seems that sound should be a bigger part of our thought process when developing video content. Creatives and business alike should not be so quick to dismiss something that is so simple, yet yields such big results from our consumers. Using sound, we can develop a relationship with our audience, and in doing so develop trust, aid brand recognition, and create meaningful entertainment.

If you have an idea for an animation project, or want to talk to us about sound branding, you can contact us here, drop us an email at or give us a call on +44 (0)207 148 0526.

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