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Audio Logos: An Interview with Dr. David Allan - Part 1
Episode 13913th July 2022 • Audio Branding • Jodi Krangle
00:00:00 00:39:45

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“It certainly adds another sense to sight, you know, and most of the people that I talk to, you can see a logo, but sound really helps you to feel a logo.” -- Dr. David Allan


My next guest is a professor of marketing at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has a BA in communications from American University, an MBA in marketing from St Joseph's, and a Ph.D. in Mass Media & Communication from Temple University, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Legal Studies in Entertainment Law from the University of Southern California. He's a prolific writer with three books – Super Sonic Logos & This Note’s for You, both on Business Experts Press, and Hit Play, on Sentia Publishing – as well as three book chapters about music, advertising, and marketing, six music case studies, and a multitude of journal articles.

He also hosts two podcasts, Marketing Musicology and The NFT PHD, and spent over twenty years in radio as a DJ, program director, and general manager.  His name is Dr. David Allan and he knows a thing or two about sound marketing.  Stay tuned, because you and I are about to be schooled.

As always, if you have any questions for my guest, you’re welcome to reach out through the links in the show notes.  If you have questions for me, just visit where you’ll find all sorts of ways to get in touch. Plus, subscribing to the newsletter (on the webpage) will let you know when the new podcasts are available.


This is Your Classroom

We start the episode with a look back at Dr. Allan's childhood memories of sound and the radio DJs who helped inspire him. He tells about his very first stint as a college DJ and how a storied radio career took an unexpected turn towards academia. “He hands me a textbook and a syllabus,” David recalls a surprise conversation one morning with a college department head, “and he says ‘this is your classroom. Good luck.’” The opportunity inspired him to go back to school and earn his Ph.D., and he explains how some of his friends at the time questioned his decision to trade a high-paying radio career for a new start as a marketing professor. “’I make a lot of money,’” he remembers telling them, “but I'm not going to make it for a long time, and on some level, it's not going to be worth it."


A Perpetual Learner

Dr. Allan tells us about the process of writing his latest book Super Sonic Logos, and how the early days of the COVID pandemic turned out to be an unlikely blessing, from drawing his attention to smart speakers, audio logos, and the prevalence of sound in our online lives to the practical issue of being able to find and interviewing so many audio experts. “Everybody was home,” he recalls the process of interviewing famous industry composers and sound gurus, “and everybody had a lot of time to talk.” He reveals the one interview question that always gets a surprising answer from his guests, and how much he learned from them about the audio industry.  “I'm a perpetual learner and I'm highly intellectually curious,” he explains, and then adds, “more curious than intellectual.”


Getting Better Every Day

Just what sort of companies need a sonic identity and branding strategy? “Most of the people that I talk to that are in the business,” Dr. Allan recounts from those interviews, “think everyone needs one, and then they're very quick to point out that they shouldn't have one if they think it's just a logo.” We talk about the evolving role of sound in modern media, from the vital role it plays in such movies as Jaws and Titanic to how it’s completely transformed modern movie trailers. “The people that realized that have been able to maximize that and continue to maximize that,” he explains about the power of sound as a storytelling and branding tool, “and that's why it's seemingly getting better every day.”


Ebbs and Flows

We talk about sonic branding and how companies like Snapple rely just as much on sound recognition as they do logos and visual marketing. “A student actually brought that to me,” he recalls, “and he did it on Snapple, and how he misses the glass bottle and snap cap.” We discuss Coca-Cola's success in selling the sound of its cola to consumers and how its sonic strategy compares with its longtime rival Pepsi, which focuses more on musical branding and pop culture. “I think it's the same way,” he says, “that popular music in advertising sort of ebbs and flows with logos and with jingles.”


Episode Summary

  • Dr. Allan’s memories of sound and experiences as a young DJ
  • How David found his calling as a teacher and marketing professor
  • The process of writing and researching Super Sonic Logos
  • How sonic branding has reshaped the entertainment industry
  • Famous sound logos and strategies for a successful audio brand


Check back next week for the second half of the interview as we talk about some of the twists and turns that famous audio logos like McDonald’s and Intel had along the way, the challenge of measuring a marketing campaign’s success, and the surprising role NFTs might play in audio’s future.


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