Ready or not, TikTok users are coming for your sounds


By Bianca Nebout

While Instagram has made brands focus on their visual aspect, TikTok has alerted them to the power of sound. The platform, where popular content relies on sounds and music, is reshaping the importance of sound on social media. Now that TikTok is becoming an essential for brands, isn’t it time to think about how your brand sounds? 

In a previous article, our U.S. Managing Director, Colleen Fahey looks at how brands can be optimized for TikTok. One piece of advice she gives is to “help creators play with your product sounds.” But, brands can also help creators by sharing their own brand sounds. 

Sounds on TikTok can come from anywhere and that can also include brands’ sonic identities. Back when Vine – the six-second video platform – was thriving, sonic identities and jingles were already helping videos go viral. Among the most iconic Vines is this caricatural one showing a murderer who catches his victim by getting him to finish singing Red Robin’s sonic identity, as well as this one showing two teens rocking out to the Education Connection jingle. 

Today, TikTok users are following in Vine’s footsteps. Some viral sounds have included UX brand sounds like Apple Pay’s confirmation signal, Skype dialing tone or Windows opening screen sound. Some even go further by mashing sounds and songs, like this TikTok that merges the NYC MTA signal into the song “Aline” by Christophe. 

We are familiar with these sounds and do not need an explanation to understand their meaning. The fact that these videos are taken out of their usual context makes them so relatable and enjoyable (this duck is trying to FaceTime you!). The simplicity of incorporating a familiar sound into an unexpected video gives you the instant gratification of feeling that you’re part of an inside joke. 

This can also work with sonic identities. At Sixième Son, we have had the pleasure of seeing the former French Ministry of Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, hop on the ”What are you listening to?” trend, with his reply featuring a remix of the National French Railroad, SNCF’s sonic logo that we created over 15 years ago.


On coupe on décale, comme Saga Douk. #pourtoi #fyp

♬ son original – Jean-Baptiste Djebbari

But what happens when your brand does not have a sound? 

Let’s look back on the Adult Swim trend (also known as “AS”) that took place at the end of last year. The trend came from the famous Cartoon Network Adult Swim bumper ads, which used to play on the American TV channel between shows in the 2010s. As a European who did not know them, it actually came as a surprise to me that the bumper ads did not have a set sound or jingle. 

The trend really started when a user chose a sound to add to their video: the sound of Adult Swim was made. The power of the trend specifically lies in sound. Within the first second of the video, the first notes tell you where it is going. It’s not a random video, and you know that if you keep watching, you’ll be pleased with the ending. Furthermore, not only did users enjoy the trend, but they were able to join in by making their own version of the ads – like this one or even this one

The hashtag Adult Swim now has over 7.8 billion views (the hashtags #adultswimchallenge and #adultswimtrend both have respectively 161.5 and 91.6 million views) and the original sound has been used in over 724k videos. The official Adult Swim account even participated in the trend using the sound and its video received over 31.4 million views and 5 million likes. These numbers show the power of sound and how viral it can go on TikTok. Just imagine the brand impact that it could have had it had had its own unique sound.

So, what’s next?

Users won’t wait for your brand to provide TikTok-curated sounds to create content.

So, you might as well give them the tools upfront by making your sonic identity easily recognizable and available. When creating your sonic identity, you should consider TikTok to be a key touchpoint and create specific adaptations of your identity for creators to use, just as you would for radio and TV. Users on TikTok are content creators, for them to create with sounds, they need to be able to find them, because that may make the difference in who they pick for their next trend challenge. 

Although you might not be able to control TikTok trends, your own sounds and jingles will make your brand’s identity standout on the platform and, with a bit of luck, go viral!

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels