How the Apple iPod influenced sonic branding

As the iPod turns 20, Joe Belliotti, CEO at MassiveMusic North America, reflects on how Apple used sonic branding to help us get used to a revolutionary new product, and to stand out

When Apple announced the very first iPod 20 years ago (if you can believe it!), and said at the time that music will never be the same again, they meant it. The iPod wasn’t just any ordinary MP3 player; it was sleek, roughly the size of a cassette, but could still hold 1,000 songs with its 5GB storage, and ultimately it was just cool.

I can still remember the sound of the now-iconic scroll wheel clicks as you searched through your digital music library. Even the sound of the iPod represented what Apple stood for as a brand – a huge development in how we access and consume music and the technology that enables us to do so.

At the most recent MacBook Pro launch event, Apple debuted a great track from artist A. G. Cook which saw an incredible mash-up of all of Apple products’ iconic sounds – from the start-up ‘hum’ of a Mac, to the irresistibly addictive sound of the AirPods case clicking open and shut.

I like to think about what Apple would do if the iPod was launched today. Their current strategy of using its products and functional sounds in its advertising is a great move, and certainly inspiring for other brands. Finding your brand sound doesn’t always have to be searching for the right track – it can be much closer to home, and the equity in that sound can be extremely effective with consumers.