Audio logo recognition, reduced articulation and coding orientation: Rudiments of quantitative research integrating branding theory, social semiotics and music psychology

Anders Bonde, Allan Grutt Hansen


In this paper we explore an interdisciplinary theoretical framework for the analysis of corporate audio logos and their effectiveness regarding recognisability and identification. This is done by combining three different academic disciplines: 1) social semiotics, 2) branding theory and 3) music psychology. Admittedly, the idea of integrating sonic semiotics with marketing or branding has been proposed elsewhere (cf. Jekosch, 2005; Arning & Gordon, 2006; Winter, 2011), though it appears novel to apply this cross-disciplinary field from a social-semiotic perspective while, at the same time, focusing on musicological descriptors. We consider as a starting point Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (1996, 2006) conceptualisation of ‘modality’, which is central to their ‘visual grammar’ theory and subsequently extended to auditory expressions such as spoken language, music and sound effects (Van Leeuwen, 1999). While originally developed on the basis of linguistics and systemic-functional grammar (Halliday, 1978, 1985) and further reinforced by theories of ‘intersemiotic translation’ (cf. Jakobson, 1959; Eco, 2001) and ‘coding orientation’ (Bernstein, 1971, 1981), Kress and Van Leeuwen’s idea of modality is in this paper connected to notions of brand recognisability and brand identification, thus resulting in the concept of ‘Reduced Articulation Form’ (RAF). The concept has been tested empirically through a survey of 137 upper secondary school students. On the basis of a conditioning experiment, manipulating five existing audio logos in terms of tempo, rhythm, pitch and timbre, the students filled out a structured questionnaire and assessed at which condition they were able to recognise the logos and the corresponding brands. The results indicated that pitch is a much more recognisable trait than rhythm. Also, while timbre turned out to be a decisive element, RAF did actually cause logo and brand recognition in a substantial way. Finally, there seems to be a connection between the level of melodic distinctiveness and logo and brand recognition. The empirical findings are interpreted and discussed in light of the theoretical framework and the concept of coding orientation.

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ISSN: 1904-500X

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