45 years of Apple’s iconic sonic branding
Apple's sound world is a masterclass in subtle but effective sonic branding.
Apple are celebrating 45 years of business with a song created solely from the sounds the brand has been associated with over the decades. The company paired up with artist and producer A. G. Cook to create the song, titled ‘Start Up.’
Apple’s strength as a brand has always been exemplified by their highly successful focus on sonic branding. They were ahead of their time in prioritising crafting beautiful sounds for users to associate with their brand experience, consistently setting themselves apart from competitors.
As a multifaceted brand, Apple’s developed sonic identity allows consumers to experience unity between all brand interactions.
‘Start Up’ is a surprisingly elegant piece, making use of the percussive elements of Apple products, such as keyboard tapping and chargers plugging in, as well as the more melodic chimes of a Mac starting up, sometimes layered and manipulated, but always recognisable.
For generations of Apple users, this chime: the sound that accompanied the switching on of their desktop computers, is one that strikes an emotional chord. The chime was used for all Macs from 1998-2016, and continues to be used in MacBook laptops. The chord is a F-sharp major, and was produced by pitch-shifting the 840AV’s sound.
The sound strategically clears the user’s mindset, with a calm and refreshing effect.
Arguably one of the most famous examples of branded audio ever, the Apple startup sound was created to welcome the user to the Apple experience, specifically after a machine crashed. The sound strategically clears the user’s mindset, with a calm and refreshing effect.
This sound is so iconic that it can be instantly recognised in Pixar’s Wall-E, signaling when the titular robot character has fully recharged. This is perhaps a nod to Steve Jobs, who was previously chief executive of Pixar before it was bought by Disney. The Apple logo or typeface was not on show anywhere in the film, so it’s purely audio that signals the Apple brand to audiences.
As a multifaceted brand, Apple’s developed sonic branding also allows consumers to experience unity between Apple TV, Apple Pay, their phone and computer set up, and tailor the mood and expectations of the consumer for each interaction. So whether you are relaxing and scrolling through Apple TV, rebooting your computer to start work, or receiving an important text, the sonic branding offers emotional cues to suit. The fact that Apple is able to flex their identity, while still maintaining such a cohesive and powerful overall brand is testament to the strategic intelligence behind it.
‘Start Up’ uses the sounds of iMac G3 Startup, MacBook Pro Startup, AirPods Case Closing, iOS Alert, HomePod Minimum Volume, iPod Click Wheel, Note Alert, Email Whoosh, MagSafe Charger, Night Owl Ringtone, HomePod Nope, HomePod PingPong, Mac 2020 Alert, Empty Trash, Message Sent, Message Received, HomePod Device Identify, iPhone Keyboard, Airdrop Invite, Mac Sosumi and Apple Pay.