The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel, and Buy
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“Equal parts sociological study and business advice, using unique everyday examples—for instance, how the fate of the Chili’s fajita empire rested on the sound of the sizzling platter, and how Disneyland approaches soundscapes for a fully immersive experience—to explain how sound effects our mood and shopping habits.”—EW.com
Sound and music surround us so constantly that we often take them for granted. But sound has surprising power to influence our decisions, opinions, and actions in ways we might not even notice. Discordant ambient noise can induce anxiety; ice cream truck jingles can bring you back to your childhood. In The Sonic Boom, composer and strategic sound expert Joel Beckerman provides a new framework for thinking about sound’s effects on every aspect of our lives.
You don’t need to be a musician or a composer to harness the power of sound. Companies, brands, and individuals can strategically use sound to get to the core of their mission, influence how they’re perceived by their audiences, and gain a competitive edge. Whether you’re a corporate giant connecting with millions of customers or a teacher connecting with one classroom of students, the key to an effective sonic strategy is the creation of “boom moments”—transcendent instants when sound connects with a listener’s emotional core.
“I’ve spent my life curating, creating, and collecting sounds. But Beckerman and Gray have shown here that there are still plenty of sounds that we’ve all missed. The Sonic Boom reveals the music and structured cacophony of everyday life.” —Moby
Lance Stumpf, who succeeded Weidmann (who died in 2001) as La Vista’s executive chef and is now general manager of the Austin Hyatt. “People recognized it as ‘Ooh! Something hot is coming up behind me!’” La Vista was one of the first places to stumble upon sound in the fajita recipe. Weidmann, however, was convinced that it was his unique choice of spices that made the dish a success. That became a roadblock when Hyatt tried to replicate the dish at other restaurants in the hotel chain—they
how to make that kind of sound. But it wasn’t until I was eleven that I recognized sound and music’s power to shape, define, and transform an emotional experience. I had to show my little brother that I could get through The Exorcist without wetting myself, so I used sound to feel brave. It was way too late at night. The babysitter was conked out on the couch. I dialed up the classic horror flick on cable. During graphic scenes, I didn’t cover my eyes. Instead, I turned down the sound and
found that customers spent “significantly more” on food and drink when slower music was playing. Caldwell and Hibbert were building on previous studies that focused on the time and money spent in malls, retail outlets, and cafeterias. In one such study in the 1980s, acclaimed marketing professor and researcher Ronald E. Millman found that supermarket sales went up 38 percent when the store played slow rather than fast music. A big part of the reason why has to do with arousal—meaning a real,
too—they look like portable toilets from the outside, but they’re actually portals into full facilities; the effect can be jarring when you see groups of people exiting together from what appears to be a single-person porta-potty. In 2007, the bathrooms were voted the number-one restrooms in America by Cintas, makers of commercial bathroom products.) At the end of the day, Jim’s is a supermarket, and there are typical supermarket sounds—clanking carts, boxes being ripped open, cellophane bags
its voice. By the time I got involved, in fact, everyone was clamoring to hear what that voice should sound like. Music for Univision was far more important than it was for a typical network. “Music has always been very important to the culture, period. It’s one of the major cultural tenets that we keep,” Ruth says. But it could have a far greater impact. It could help cement a set of shared ideas and galvanize the groups of people who hold those ideas to form a kind of virtual nation—even if