What does Europe sound like?

Have you ever wondered why the European Union’s audiovisual identity has no audio? I have.


Since producing The Europe Song for the European Commission, I’ve been on a quest to bring strategically designed music and audio branding into the mainstream of EU communications.


Now I’m going to live blog that quest. I’ll demonstrate how brands like SNCF are using sound to build recognition, trust and positive sentiment. And I’ll prove that sound is the European Union’s most undervalued sensory communications tool in battling populist EU-bashers and “alternative facts”.


Where’s the audio in EU communications?


To get the ball rolling, I posed this question on Twitter. Click on the tweet to see the replies:



At the annual #EuroPCom event for EU communicators, I left visual and audio trails around the venue to push along the discussion:



More updates above as the discussion evolves.


The Europe Song – a case study


While the discussion around audio branding (slowly) gains traction among my peers, I’ve been experimenting with audio communications using music from The Europe Song. I’d designed the song as an integrated 3-part “audio pool” of melodies, rhythms and textures that can be embedded into just about any EU communication (the music is free to use for non-commercial purposes).


I’ll update this live blog with the results. In the meantime, here’s a taste of what we’re up to.


Before releasing The Europe Song to the public, we kicked off the story beforetime via Soonfeed. My old cassette recording of “Side A” served as a hook for both the backstory and the opening melody line:



The Europe Song was expertly trolled (mostly by the Dutch far right) as soon as it went live. So we created this earworm as a stock response to trolls who ignore all rational argument:



When #EUSupergirl visited Brussels to gather support for her campaign to stop Brexit, we produced some teaser videos that featured the signature crescendo from The Europe Song:



What is an “audio identity”?


It’s also known as audio branding, sound branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding, whatever you want to call it. An audio identity is more than just a sound logo at the end of a corporate video, a jingle on the radio or (in the EU’s case) a 200-year old anthem played at keynote events. It’s a holistic process that communicates the essence, values and promise of a brand within a multi-sensory branding strategy, and which typically includes some or all of the following elements:


Audio logo – SNCF, French railway company (2005), updated with “whoosh” (2012)



Functional sounds – MS Windows XP, computer operating system (2001)



Soundscapes – Metropolis, German sci-fi film (1927)



Soundtracks – Trainspotting, film (1996); Lust for Life, Iggy Pop song (1977)



Song/AnthemAnthem of Europe (1985); aka Ode to Joy, from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1823)



Why does the EU need audio communication?


Good question! The short answer is that sound increases brand awareness, trust and positive sentiment. I think we can agree that all three are crucial for the oft-battered brand known as the “European Union”.


If you’re looking for a longer answer, join me on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates as this live blog unfolds. Or, even better, let’s talk.


Richard Medic is founding chief of happeningo communications and Soonfeed media.