Sonic logos: The evolution of the advertising jingle.

Laura Pryor 09/25/23 - 8:53 am

Sonic logos: The evolution of the advertising jingle.

When I was a very small child, Gold Medal Flour had a catchy earworm of a jingle in their advertising that I could perform by heart to amused family members. Today, MANY decades later, I can still remember it:

To make a chocolate cake
To make a cherry pie
To make a stack of golden biscuits ten feet high
Can do
Can do
With Gold Medal you can do

At the time, I didn’t know that the tune was stolen from the Broadway show “Guys and Dolls” (Song: Fugue for Tinhorns). And I was too little to bake, so I didn’t care about Gold Medal Flour. But like the best jingles, it was lodged in my brain for life.

Some pundits claim that the jingle is dead, but it has really just evolved. Just like dinosaurs eventually became chickens, jingles have evolved into sonic logos.

What is a sonic logo?

A sonic logo is a short audio signature, usually used in conjunction with a brand’s visual logo. It’s not always a melody; sometimes it’s just a sound, like the Netflix “ta-dum” or the “bong-bong” sound that tells you an episode of “Law and Order” has just begun. Sometimes it’s a spoken theme line that is delivered in a distinctive way (“We have the MEATS!”).

Intel got the ball rolling way back in 1994 with the introduction of the “Intel inside bong.” Five notes, three seconds, and one of the most recognizable sonic logos of all time.

Precisely because they’re so short, it’s even easier for a sonic logo to get lodged in your brain. Say the phrase “We are Farmers” to pretty much anyone, and they’ll come back with the “Bum bum-bum bum bum bum bum” conclusion of the sonic logo for Farmers Insurance. (Sonic logos usually aren’t big on lyrics, beyond the name of the company. As in, “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty. Liberty.”)

When does a sonic logo become a jingle? Or vice versa? There’s no hard and fast rule, but a sonic logo is usually short enough to tack onto the end of a TV or radio spot without significantly curtailing the main message of the spot (usually 2‑3 seconds).

It’s not surprising that sonic logos are the new jingles. Everything in advertising has gotten shorter—TV spots, radio spots, videos, attention spans.

The making of a sonic logo

You’d think that a sonic logo, being so short, would be a snap to come up with. Think again. It’s not easy to find a sound or a couple of notes that encapsulate everything you want consumers to think and feel about your company.

Advertisers are putting a lot of thought (and money) into the development of sonic logos. For an appreciation of how in-depth the process can be, watch this video about how sound engineers went about creating a new sonic logo for the Tostitos brand of snack products. And if you want to see some serious overthinking on a luxury brand, watch this two-minute introduction video for what Infiniti calls their new “signature sound.”

Jingles: Not extinct yet

While the heyday of jingles may be over, they’re not completely a thing of the past. “Nationwide is on your side” is now both a sonic logo AND a jingle. Singer H.E.R performs different versions of the song in the most recent Nationwide Insurance spots, always finishing with the iconic “Nationwide is on your side” musical phrase. The people over at Daisy dairy products continue to churn out catchy Daisy ditties encouraging consumers to “do a dollop.” And on the radio, Febreze air fresheners and Charmin toilet paper are featuring such well-produced tunes, you can hardly tell where the station’s music ends and the ad begins.

So, in this evolution, even though the chickens are multiplying, the dinosaurs are still hanging around.

(To hear a catchy tune Brogan & Partners adapted for advertising use, watch our “Secondhand Smoke” anti-smoking PSA.)

Why Brogan?

We are true partners. With a proven track record of delivering strategic marketing expertise, award-winning creative and real-time, data-driven media, we go above and beyond for our clients to get results. We even guarantee you’ll be delighted.