WOWOW Sonic Branding

Aug 11, 2021

Sonic Identities, Mnemonics, Jingles, Stings, Sizzles, Corporate Identities - ‘Sonic Branding’ has been called many names. For the purposes of this piece, let’s refer to it as ‘A Sonic Identity’, capturing a brand’s essence in a 3-5 second sonic identity, that ensures a brand is not only seen, but heard. ‘The Era of Sonic Branding’ - as we call it - is most definitely upon us, with brands ever-increasingly looking to stand out from competition and utilise the limitless power of music and sound to improve recall and emotional impact with their audience. But how does it work? How do you condense the full spectrum of a brands complexities into such a short time-frame, whilst remaining true to the brand DNA? At Syn, we use a tried and tested method of research, development and composition to create Sonic Identities for our clients.

We call this, ‘The Syn Sonic Six’; it is a six-step process of exploration and experimentation that we walk through with our clients, ultimately resulting in the creation of a unique Sonic Identity. See it as an iceberg, with the majority of the activity taking place below the waterline (as it were), and the result being a highly bespoke, polished Sonic Identity. We explore keywords, themes, variations and touch-points, and put this research into action in a creative development phase, resulting in exploratory demos for our client’s consideration. One particular Syn project I’d like to explore under this lens is in the form of a recent Sonic Identity for Japanese television channel, ‘WOWOW’.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘HBO of Japan’, ‘WOWOW’ offers local Japanese shows, as well as American classics such as ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Friends’. As the first 24/7 high-definition broadcaster in Japan, and a market leader in the Japanese broadcast television market, this high-profile project presented an exciting challenge for the Syn team. Having not re-branded in over 10 years, this project brought an opportunity to explore a new inclusive target market, whilst bringing a fresh perspective on the sound of the brand. The brief was to create five sonic identities, with a common theme, that represent five differing offerings across the brand. A central musical and sonic idea ties the offerings together, whilst each variation interprets the theme of the five channels, ‘WOWOW Prime’, ‘WOWOW Live’, ‘WOWOW Cinema’, ‘WOWOW Plus’ and ‘WOWOW 4K’.

Led by Syn’s Head of Production, Yumi Tanabe, this project worked in tandem with visual production partner, Command-E, who created the visual concepts. Each channel’s identity features variations in theme and animation, bringing to life the differences in their particular offering, and an important consideration was to reflect this through music and sound. For example, let’s explore ‘WOWOW Cinema’; a Sonic Identity bringing to mind the silver screen, Hollywood and the great orchestral scores of movie history. With the signature ‘WOWOW’ sonic ID at its core, this theme was interpreted in an orchestral score, with cinematic strings leading the instrumentation.

Working with the Northern Film Orchestra in the UK, we recorded the orchestra remotely to capture the sparkle and impact of the string-section for this theatrical theme. You’ll notice the shimmering brightness and warmth of the strings gives this particular theme a sense of space and classic heritage, contrasting some of the more modern, sound-design lead themes found elsewhere in the project.

In contrast to the orchestral sweetness of ‘WOWOW Cinema’, a rock-interpretation of the main theme packs a punch for ‘WOWOW Live’. This particular channel broadcasts sport, documentaries and live performance, giving Syn the opportunity to create something immediate, impactful and Rock-guitar inspired. Created by Syn’s in-house composer in Los Angeles, the global creative team explored a range of influences to give a true sense of perspective and diversity to these varying themes, with ‘WOWOW Live’ using electric guitar and overdrive to bring this classic-rock inspiration into the mix.

Whilst many of the Sonic IDs we hear everyday in the Film and TV space lean heavily on music and sound design, Voice can be an interesting part of Sonic Branding when used appropriately. ‘McDonalds’ - for example - have successfully made voice a central part of their 5-note Sonic ID since Justin Timberlake first wrote ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ for the fast food giant in 2003. Sometimes sung, and sometimes spoken - voice can bring a human element to the sonic branding space, and compliment/contrast musical elements with the organic character of the human voice. In the case of ‘WOWOW’, accompanying each Sonic ID you will hear the whispered namesake, ‘WOWOW’, appearing underneath the musical theme. Working with a range of voice talent across Japan, UK and USA, we explored different whispered tones for each theme. Some female, some male, some bright and some darker - each theme has as accompanying vocal element to match the sound and emphasise the variation.

As we see from the above, 5-seconds of sound is informed by hours of conceptual consideration and it is here where ‘The Syn Sonic Six’ helps us collaborate with a client to pin-point the sound of a brand. In the case of ‘WOWOW’, keywords such as ‘Cinema’ and ‘Live’ help gather inspiration from a range of influences, such as orchestral sounds or rock guitar. It is a collaborative process from the start, working closely with visual partners (in this case, Command-E) and exploring possibilities.

Next time an audience sits down to watch their favourite show on one of WOWOW’s five-offerings, we trust that the carefully considered decisions we have taken in exploring their sonic identity is distilled into a pleasant, memorable and impactful moment for the listener, because it is here that the measure of a job well done is taken.