Defining media design -- and why it matters now more than ever
Part One: The Value of Audio Cues On The Internet
Radio is the originator of the "audio cue" -- those little sounds introducing features, starting shows or alerting listeners to something special. It's designed to attract attention and distinguish the product; often the radio station itself. Those audio cues become important "markers" helping define the personality of the station.
One of the greatest examples is the 3-chime "boing boing boing" NBC audio cue...it first started on the radio for nationally broadcast shows out of New York City.
When TV began broadcasting, many successful radio tools -- like audio cues -- were used, including the NBC chimes.
Today, audio cues are still highly effective in helping consumers sort through thousands of advertising messages every day.
For example, when you think of Pentium chip, you think of their audio cue. Anytime a Classic Rock song is used as a music bed to help sell a car, that's an audio cue ("Who are you?" A rocking Cadillac driver).
Another great is example is from TiVo. Their chirpy clicks and "dwops" are a familiar and even welcome sound to millions of consumers addicted to the ad-zapping set-top. But the system's ad-skipping feature and ability to time-shift television viewing aren't the only things that appeal to devotees: TiVo's intuitively and elegantly designed interface make it an easy-to-use no-brainer for most consumers. Even its long-form sponsor/content showcases -- basically infomercials for advertisers and promotions for TV shows and films -- are well-designed and executed.
To the consumer, the TiVo chirps and dwop audio cue signal "easy-to-use", convenient and favorite shows...very powerful word associations. That is the essence of high-level media design in brand development.
As the Internet continues to expand and evolve, as more TV, movie, video and audio content is made available for consumption, the need for new custom, unique "audio cues" specifically for Internet usage. Yahoo! has it with their yodel for advertising...but not for their actual streaming or download audio/video usage. AOL has it when "you've got mail" and "welcomed" online...but not for the Top 5 TV picks from last night (they keep changing their generic setup music intros).
More and more, the Internet is becoming channel-driven, not just web-address driven. Audio cues helps clarify different channels and different features. When thinking about media design and brand/customer relationships, consider how new (or freshened) audio cues on your web site can enhance the experience and make your site more memorable.
Expect more on this topic of media design in the weeks ahead.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Tuesday, January 17, 2006,