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"Our Song": Understanding Sonic Branding through the Music of Taylor Swift

Have you ever been in a relationship where you knew your partner was out front in their car waiting before they texted you or rang your doorbell, solely from the sound of their engine alone? What about one where you hear their laugh in a crowded room and you instantly know who’s laugh it is and how funny whatever it is must be to them?

It may sound like quite the stretch to compare the songwriting of a then-17 year old to an entire industry in marketing but hear me out: Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” is a phenomenal example of sonic branding and building a relationship with another through sound.

In “Our Song” Taylor speaks about a relationship she has had where she was thinking about how her and her partner don’t have a special song to share between them. Her partner then corrects her and outlines all the various sounds in their relationship that are unique and special to them.

The Chorus of the song goes,

"Our song is a slamming screen door

Sneakin' out late, tapping on your window

When we're on the phone and you talk real slow

'Cause it's late and your mama don't know

Our song is the way you laugh

The first date, "Man, I didn't kiss her and I should have"

And when I got home, 'fore I said, "Amen"

Askin' God if he could play it again”

Though this may not be a “Traditional” song, these are the sounds young Taylor looked forward to and built a relationship around. The door slamming as she runs out of the house to her date. The sound of her partner tapping on her window late at night. The slow way they talk on the phone, their laughter, etc. Even if these sounds never actually appear in “Our Song” itself, they description and feeling around them are easily captured and quite relatable.

Each one of these sounds are strong identifiable elements of their relationship. And even though the two of them may have never had a traditional song to share between them (“I've heard every album, listened to the radio / Waited for somethin' to come along / That was as good as our song”) These sounds captured the experience of their relationship and brought emotional connotations with each one that Taylor looked forward to and held onto fondly.

As a brand, you can exploit the power of sound to build relationships with your customers too. What are the notification sounds you use in your apps or websites? What sort of sonic environment exists in your physical location? Are you using curated playlists or letting the employees or radio pick the sounds? Does your product have any distinctive sound characteristics?

Sound elements are often overlooked in favor of visual, but studies show audio elements can be just as powerful, if not more, at making an emotional connection and building a relationship with a potential consumer. The consistent usage of these sound elements over time help you build a relationship with your customer, and ultimately connect with them the same way Taylor Swift connected with the various sound elements in her relationship.

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