David Meerman Scott is an old friend and former client (back in the day when he was developing his current mastery of public speaking and the new rules of marketing and PR — also the title of his perennial best-seller on the topic).  Now, he’s a pro in constant demand, and yet he somehow found the time to start something completely new (with colleague and co-founder Juanito Pascual)  way overdue in the branding world:  sonic branding.  Recently, we got together to have a discussion about this fascinating new venture.

Nick:  David, you’ve been a long-time music fan, and of course you’re a branding expert.  How come it took you so long to figure out how to put these two ideas together?:-)

David:  Ha! Well, I do have an excuse, Nick. For the past decade I was putting my love of music together with marketing geekdom by researching and writing Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead:  What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History with my co-author, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. That book became an international bestseller, so I learned that there is a great deal of interest in the strong intersection between marketing and music.

So why sonic branding of all things? I’ve frequently considered establishing an agency to do content marketing or website creation or SEO or public relations. But each time I explore the idea, I realize that there are already many great agencies out there and it would be tough to compete. So I chose to go down the path of sonic branding — it’s so unusual that even many successful marketers haven’t even heard of it, let alone used it.

Nick:  Seriously, tell us more about what sonic branding is and why you think it’s important?

David:  Sonic branding includes sonic logos of a few easily remembered musical notes as well as entire custom composed songs to capture the essence of a person, an organization, or a product. Examples of well known sonic logos include the Skype Ringtone, Apple startup chime, NBC logo, and Intel Inside “Leap Ahead”.

While most marketers understand visual branding with logos and images as well as branding using the written word, very few understand that it is possible to create (and own the rights to) your own sounds that align perfectly with your brand attributes.

Commissioning a sonic logo is surprisingly affordable and can be accomplished on nearly any marketing budget. I see custom compositions as a wide-open opportunity to create a memorable organization or product offering because very few entrepreneurs and marketers are using customized sonic branding today.

Nick:  I can imagine speakers using this for their walk-on music, and branding on their websites, podcasts, and anywhere else there’s content and branding going on.  What other uses for individuals and companies do you foresee?

David:  Exactly! You’ve nailed many of the uses of custom music. Speakers can have their own custom 30-second walk on music that can also be used in longer forms as background for their YouTube videos and theme music for a podcast. Having custom music serves as a memorable brand identifier for speakers.

Those same uses work great for companies too.

But other uses for companies include music for advertising on television and radio and as music at the tradeshow booth. Some products such as online learning or software or games can make use of music within the product itself.

Once you have a song, you will think of many ways to use it!

Nick:  One of my pet peeves is people who use music without permission, basically depriving musicians of their livelihood.  Yet music is such an important background (and sometimes foreground) to our lives.  Who will “own” these musical brands?

David: Few marketers use sound in their marketing programs. And of those who do use sound, nearly all either purchase stock music that is by definition not exclusive to them, or, as you say, steal well-known songs. Using famous music without securing the rights is stealing and could harm your brand. Our philosophy is that is much better to spend a little money to create the perfect music that reflects your brand than to steal or use stock.

Once you commission a song with us, we deliver that song to you together with all rights. You own it and can do whatever you want with it!

For example, we recently developed both a sonic logo and an original song titled “Building A Brilliant Tomorrow” for Inovateus Solar, a leading solar development and supply company that works on large-scale projects as well as supplies residential installers.

For Inovateus Solar, we developed an awesome reggae-infused song that works great with the Inovateus brand.

“Our original music is my new favorite song!,” says T.J. Kanczuzewski, President, Inovateus Solar “It’s really an awesome tune that anyone will dig and captures the spirit of the Inovateus Solar brand. The Signature Tones process has been great. David and Juanito have a cool thing going and we are glad to be a part of it.”  (Here’s a link to the song: https://vimeo.com/219153899)

Nick: Tell us about David and Juanito — how did you meet, how did you get the idea, how did you create the company, what are your hopes for it?

David:  I met Juanito at a conference about 5 years ago where I was delivering a keynote speech and he was performing during breaks. We were seated at the same round table and got to talking and learned we are both fans of the Grateful Dead so we became fast friends. We then met several times at an event called Geoversity located in Panama. In January of this year while in Panama, we hatched the idea for Signature Tones.  (The link to Geoversity: https://geoversity.org/en)

Juanito is an incredibly skilled musician and composer. He regularly performs around the world with his own band and has several successful CDs. While at college at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, it became clear to him that composition was a central part of his musical expression. Besides his corporate work with Signature Tones, Juanito composes for film and TV, capturing the essence of the scene, character, or plot in his music. He appeared in “Pink Panther 2” with Steve Martin, and most recently performed on the score of “Call Me Francesco” (Netflix) and on the Viceland program of “State of Undress.”

To give you a taste of his music, consider the Juanito Pascual New Flamenco Trio playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYzxyBvsPwo

Nick:  Thanks, David, and best of luck with the new venture.  Here’s the link to David and Juanito’s new venture.


  1. What a great idea , David — and by the way, you forgot to mention the HBO ‘ahh’ sound at the beginning of programs, which they have lately turned into a major part of their marketing campaign (by having their shows’ stars imitate the sound in on-air promos.) I think you may be onto something big.

    1. Thanks for the great idea, David. Every speaker that reads this post should get his/her own sonic signature!

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