The French love sonic branding, but are they using it to its full potential?

By Camille Verniolle (CORD Paris) & Hayley Cannon (CORD London)

The development of sonic identities is not a new thing for a territory like France. The early developments of this clever marketing strategy go back to the early 80’s where famous French artists like Gilbert Montagné and André Georget were commissioned to create jingles for French brands. Their most famous one was for the Nestlé brand Ricoré, which was used for 25 years.
Eventually Ricoré abandoned their jingle, however this is the exception to the rule. The majority of French brands have kept or even modernised their sonic identities; like EDF, Roland Garros, Peugeot, Groupama, Danone, SFR, Michelin, Renault, Contrex, DIM, Decathlon, Maybelline…to name but a few! These brands use their sonic identities across touchpoints including TV, radio, retail spaces, on hold music and more.
One French brand that has really cracked it are SNCF (national rail). A study revealed that 89% of people could recognise the SNCF sonic logo from the first 2 notes alone! Now that’s strong brand recognition! More about that study here: https://hbr.org/2014/02/what-does-your-brand-sound-like/
However, if there’s one criticism of French sonic branding, it’s that most brands are using it in the most traditional sense – few are using their musical assets to their fullest potential. Most brands simply use their sonic logo at the end of their ads but have never explored using it subtly in longer tracks for communications, or using it in different musical styles to appeal to different types of audiences.
Brands like NESCAFÉ, Shell (both CORD clients) and Coca-Cola by contrast have fully embraced their musical assets. All three integrate their sonic logos throughout the longer pieces of music they use in their communications. The impact is significant. Brand recall increases, as does affinity and consideration, and of course category saliency. It’s well worth brands getting up to speed with the more innovative ways to use owned musical assets.
Have a listen to the Coca Cola mnemonic:

Can you spot this melody throughout the music in this TVC? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlpZRK2Yfd0
Have a listen to the NESCAFÉ mnemonic: 

Can you spot this melody throughout the music in this TVC? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnC8hLX_3sw
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