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Exploring The Power of Sonic Branding: A Conversation with John Sanfilippo - Part 1
Episode 2071st November 2023 • Audio Branding • Jodi Krangle
00:00:00 00:37:53

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“Loyalist College, they have their own marketing people, they had just done a visual rebrand, so it was the perfect time for a sonic – not even a rebrand, they never had any kind of sonic strategy. So that was very exciting. And they had this new young marketing team too, and they were really receptive to new ideas, and they had this agency on board that had done their visual rebrand and their overall rebrand, and they were great to work with too. So it was a longer process and it was more involved, but it was all the right people on board, so it did go very smoothly even though it took a bit longer. Whereas that real estate agent, that was also a great experience, but it was just a completely different thing because I realized I'm not really branding a business, I'm branding a person." -- John Sanfilippo


This week’s guest has had a storied career, from music to media and advertising, and then to their synthesis in audio branding. He founded the sonic branding and production company now known as SoundWise in 2012, and he’s worked with businesses big and small to bring their brand into the realm of sound. His name is John Sanfilippo and in this episode, we’ll be unpacking his journey into audio branding and how the industry has transformed into the powerhouse it is today.

One of the most intriguing aspects of our discussion was the creation process of a sonic identity, a signature sound so unique it resonates without visuals or words. We dove deep into the connection between voiceover and sonic branding communities, reminisced about early sound experiences that have left a lasting impression on us, and even ventured into the iconic album Thriller by Michael Jackson. All the while, John expertly guided us through the process of using a brand's media, touchpoints, and environments to craft a compelling and recognizable sonic identity.

John also shed light on the nuances of audio branding for different-sized companies and the importance of understanding the emotional core of a client. We chatted about the creative push that comes with fresh ideas and the importance of integrating non-musical elements into audio logos. So, tune in, get comfortable, and let your ears guide you on this exploration of sonic branding.

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(0:00:01) - The Power of Sonic Branding

John shares his journey of how he got into audio branding and how it has evolved over the years. “The industry is very interesting right now,” he says, “because there are so many people doing it, but there isn’t anybody necessarily flying the plane. You know, there isn’t like one sort of authority figure saying this is how it is now, which I think is probably a good thing.” He explains the process of creating a sonic identity that is so distinct and consistent that it could work without visuals or words and shares his tips and insights on branding with sound today and about what the future might hold.


(0:04:11) - Audio Branding and Early Sound Exploration

We also explore how the voiceover and sonic branding communities are linked, the importance of a tactile component to sound, and the early sound experiences that have moved us. We discuss the iconic album Thriller by Michael Jackson, its guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen, and an intriguing discovery about the pool tables in the music video: “I don't know if they were like just like weird prop tables that somebody made and forgot to put holes in them,” he says, “but it's the weirdest thing I saw.”


(0:16:02) - The Power of Sound in Branding

Our conversation turns to the process of sonic branding and audio production. “The first thing we generally do,” John explains, “is what I like to call the audio audit. So we look at the brand’s media, its touch points, its environments, all those places where sound can be exploited in some way, where we can put our signature on it.” John also talks about an exciting fusion of sound and animation that he’s working on right now and the avian inspiration behind Soundwise’s own audio brand.


(0:30:10) - Audio Branding for Small vs. Large

We discuss the differences between audio branding for small and large companies, the importance of understanding the emotional core of the client, and the process of creating a sonic logo that stands out. “So I thought,” he tells us, “okay, no, sonic logo is definitely the way to go. So once I had that melody I thought, okay, we can incorporate some non-musical elements. So when you hear it you'll notice the melody is accented by some key and door sounds, so you get that melody, but you also get that texture.” We also explore the benefits of working with a client, the creative push that comes with new ideas, and the importance of incorporating non-musical elements into sonic logos.


Episode Summary

  • John shares his journey of audio branding and its evolution.
  • We discuss Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo.
  • John explores audio production, signature sound, and early sound experiences.
  • How audio branding can work for both small and large companies.

Tune in next week as we share some of the secret audio branding tricks of vehicles like Ferrari and Harley Davidson, the triumphant return of the full-sing jingle, and how the next generation of AI and synthetic voices are dramatically reshaping the audio branding landscape.


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