Audio logos, sound trademarks or sonic branding are used to identify a company, product or franchise, and are designed to be easily recognisable. These auditory symbolic representations may be heard when devices are booted up, at the beginning of a movie, or at the end of advertisements. In India, these are called sound marks, and can be registered in a process similar to trademarks.
This is the oldest entry in the list, and one that is the least crafted. Over the years, MGM has used a number of real lions as their logo, to set the tone for the epic film to follow. Each of these times, the natural roar of the lions was used as the audio logo. While five different lions were used between 1928 to 1956, since then every movie has used the roar by a lion called Leo.
Not many might have heard the Yahoo! yodel, but it was actually the first sound mark to be registered in India. Wylie Gustafson accepted a one time payment of $590 in 1996 to record the Yahoo! Yodel, for what he thought was a one off regional commercial. He belted out 20 to 30 different types of yodels in a short span of 10 minutes at a studio in LA.
The Nokia tune is called the Grande Valse, and was actually composed by Francisco Tarrega in 1902, ninety years before it was first used in a mobile phone. In 1994, the tune was used in the Nokia 2110, and went on to become one of the most recognisable ringtones in history. In 2009, it was estimated that the tune was heard 20,000 times every second, around the world.
THX deep note
The THX deep note that plays at the start of every THX certified film was composed by Dr James Moorer, a sound engineer at Lucasfilm. It was first heard at the introduction of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in 1983. The initial part of the score actually uses random pitches between 200 to 400 hz, moving to a sustained crescendo after 20 seconds.
20th Century Fox Fanfare
The 20th Century Fox Fanfare was originally composed in 1933 by Alfred Newman, who has won nine Oscars for music. In the 70s, the use of the audio logo had reduced, but George Lucas insisted on using it for his Star Wars movies, after which it enjoyed a resurrection. Unfortunately, Disney has now removed the fanfare from the Star Wars movies.
The PlayStation startup sound was long, complex, layered and instantly forgettable. The PS2 sound has been extensively memefied because of how similar it is to the scream from Kirin J Callinan’s Big Enough. The PS3 used a weird three part robot voice, which has also been made fun of. Learning from all this, the PS4 had a calming and neutral startup sound.
The PlayStation experiments does not mean that Sony does not know to make really good audio logos. The Sony ding is one of the most simplest and recognisable sounds around, and consists of a single G sharp note. At times the sound is not used at all, and allows a smooth transition into say, the logo of another studio, or the background score of a movie.
Early this year, Netflix started using a zooming red intro instead of the logo against a white background. The company spent two years on the animation. What stayed the same however, was the intro sound. Unlike most of the audio logos on this list, Netflix uses beats in the audio logo. There are just two beats, but it still manages to be short, impactful and recognisable.
The composer, Walter Werzowa for the Intel Inside bong was initially hired to animate the “swirl” logo of the early 90s, and came up with the accompanying jingle while repeating the words “intel inside”. The jingle had to convey reliability, trust and innovation, within a span of five notes. According to some estimates, the sound is heard every five minutes somewhere in the world.
Microsoft went up to Brian Eno and gave him a long list of adjectives to make a startup sound, including optimistic, futuristic, inspirational and emotional, with a constraint of 3.5 seconds. Eno came up with the sound after 83 iterations. In an interview with BBC, Eno admitted that he had used a Mac to make the Windows 95 startup sound, and did not enjoy using PCs.
Nintendo Switch click
This is easily the newest addition to the list, but Nintendo has a long history of making instantly recognisable sounds. One of the other famous audio marks by the company is the sound that Mario makes when a coin is picked up. The really crazy thing about this sound is that it is actually the sound that the JoyCon controllers make when docked with the Switch.