Soundscape & Brands

The sound of a chip bag was not random, and neither was the sound of a bottle cap. There is a selection process that takes place that includes the search for stable, secure, and pleasant-sounding materials for packaging.

Phillip J. Clayton
4 min readApr 9, 2023
Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Some time ago on Club House, I was engaged in a conversation about sound engineering. This intriguing conversation had me share about the world of packaging and sound. When it comes to packaging design and the consumer experience, every detail matters, at least when done properly… It’s not random, it’s not simply stuffing products into bags and containers.

There are several conversations about consumer experience and loyalty to brands, but aside from mental influence and perhaps habitual shopping or familiarity… there is something practical that makes all this happen.

If you follow me on social media or have read anything I have written, you may notice I mention association a lot when it comes to brand experiences and consumers. What I refer to as functional assets are the distinctive elements, some of which are tangible and intangible — logos are intangible, packaging is tangible — that help to enforce the brand identity, whether it be visual, written, or audio that communicates or represents the brand, these things help to curate an overall experience that consumers associate with.

Consumers are not necessarily on autopilot as some folks would have you believe… They are specific when shopping, no one spends money on autopilot. People generally, seek out products that meet their needs, they most likely have a budget in mind, but not all who shop are equal. Some consumers approach shopping by price first, others go on a wild adventure looking for discounts, and my favourite, the value shopper, looks for th thing they need first, and everything else follows based on what they are willing to spend or can spend.

Once a product category is found, and the product a consumer needs are identified, the visual appeal induces a decision-making process. All products on a shelf are observed, then the one that grabs the consumer gets attention, we refer to this as shelf positioning — packaging and label design — not limited to but includes aesthetic design. This then begins the inspection process, “is it the correct product? Does it offer what I am looking for? is the within my budget? If it’s the right product for me, then maybe I can spend more than I planned.”

If a consumer decides to purchase a product they found, something magical happens at home, and they open it. Product quality and living up to what it says it will do aside, there is an experience in opening packaging that aids in developing an association with th product, and the brand. This experience involves touch and smell, how packaging feels is important but there is something else, the sound.

When we open crisps or chips, we believe we know what they should sound like, but the truth is, we were conditioned to know that sound, on purpose. The same goes for opening juices and many other products. I am not saying, that every brand, may do this, but even so, every brand still selects a specific type of material because the sound of packaging materials has been around for a long time. They may not know it, but they are also selecting things materials for their sound as well.

Sound design is not limited to chip bags, it plays a very important role in equipment warning alerts, automobile experiences, and of course entertainment experiences. A selective process of sounds that people will associate with things is a delicate process for every brand and product manufacturer.

This process is part of what is known as product branding, and product branding involves something called Product Sound Design, which is usually done by Product Sound Designers, and Audio Branding Specialists. As explained by Lucas Lacerda.

This lovely article also explains the importance of sound in packaging and branding, “Designers can maximize the knowledge that associates the shape and sound of packaging with taste by starting with the desired perception. Food that’s meant to taste sweet, for example, should come in a round package, perhaps with rounded typeface. When shaking the package it should produce a low pitch in order for all the associations to align predictably.” — How Packaging Shape and Sound influences the percerption of Sweetness and Sourness

All this leads to a customer experience that embeds an association with a brand. As I like to say, “The brand is what is left after the experience ends.”

The next time you go shopping, open another packaging, or use a product, pay attention and think about the sounds you hear. As design professionals, think about the intended experience for th econsumers/users.

--

--

Phillip J. Clayton

Brand consultant | Strategic advisor | International brand & marketing design judge: pac-awards.com | Writer | Creative director