Inspired by nature

Can neuroscience be used to optimise the effectiveness of Kia's new sonic logo?

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The Challenge

When creating a sonic logo for Kia's first dedicated electric vehicle, the EV6, Kia wanted a sound pattern to inspire their customers. They hired the award-winning audio production agency, DaHouse, to sample the sounds of nature, create a new instrument based on these sounds, and generate candidate sonic logos. Then ACN was asked to evaluate the candidates to determine which was most inspiring.

The Solution

DaHouse first produced an instrument scientifically designed to inspire based on a range of natural sounds as diverse as those from the Cheonggyecheon River in Korea, winds in the Saraha Desert, beach waves in Scotland and birds and rain in the Amazon rainforest.

They then created a range of potential sonic logos that ACN tested to determine which had the greatest psychological impact.  In collaboration with the futurist Katherine Templar-Lewis, we conducted an on-line experiment using the Gorilla experimental platform. Volunteers performed a standard test of creativity once in silence and once after listening to one of five sound patterns.

Creativity scores for each of the five candidate sonic logos and for silence (green).

Two of the variants enhanced creativity in the listeners. Of those, one was consistently rated as more interesting and more exciting than all the others, providing a clear answer.

To determine what impact this sonic logo, a volunteer came to our lab at UCL to measure the effects of the sonic logo on her brain.

She wore an Emotiv Epoc-X portable 14-channel EEG-monitor to measure her brain wave activity while listening to environmental sounds and the new sonic logo.

Brain wave activity while listening to environmental sounds and Kia's sonic logo.

This trace shows how these brainwaves changed while listening to the sonic logo (red box).  You can see a strong response from the electrodes over the frontal lobes (AF3, F7,F5, FC5, FC6, F6, F8, AF4) consistent with an increase in alpha power in the participant.  Increases in alpha-wave activity are associated with calm, relaxed states and stand in contrast to the low alpha power when listening to noises from a busy Oxford street.  There was also an increase in theta-band activity which is often seen as the brain being more responsive to learning, memory and navigation.

For additional information on consumer neuroscience, download our free Guide to Quality Neuromarketing.

Here, the participant is listening to the music of Lucas Mayer (DaHouse) performed on Arthur Joly’s novel synthesizer.  Her EEG activity is displayed on the screen behind her.  The lines at the top and bottom of the screen represent electrodes over the frontal lobes.  There is clear engagement with the music.  The relatively flatter lines in the middle are electrodes over the occipital and parietal cortex (visual areas of the brain) and reflect the fact that she is primarily using her ears rather than her eyes.  While listening to the music, the EEG showed much higher alpha wave power consistent with her self-report that she found the music both relaxing and energising.

Kia adopted the sonic logo which now features in many of their ads

In summary:

  • Subtle variations in the sonic logo evoked different emotional responses in participants
  • Kia’s sonic logo produces a distinct brain response that is noticeably different from listening to environmental sounds
  • The music of the sonic logo evoked higher alpha and theta wave power consistent with being both relaxing and energising

which enabled Kia to choose the specific sound pattern for their new sonic logo to accompany the launch of the EV6.

Researchers Involved

Prof. Joseph Devlin
Prof. Daniel Richardson
Dr. John Hogan
Katherine Templar-Lewis

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