Why Netflix hired Hans Zimmer to zhoosh up its ta-dum sound

The streaming platform understands that even the strongest brand assets need room to evolve to meet new contexts.

What do you do when you’ve already smashed it? In Netflix’s case, you go and smash it a bit more.

Netflix’s sonic logo has become globally ubiquitous over the past five years or so since its launch. So much so that if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already hit your internal play button and “heard it” in your subconscious in the past 20 seconds alone.

It hits the gold standard for what every marketer who embarks upon a sonic branding journey wants: global fame.

But while other brands across the world go in search of their own four seconds of magic, Netflix has taken its prime piece of audio real estate and put it on steroids, with a little help from legendary composer Hans Zimmer.

This stunning, rousing display of musical indulgence has been designed for cinema – where its shorter predecessor (which still remains on the platform) just didn’t have the same effect as it does for the “click and play” content that we all consume day in, day out.

Talking about the project on the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, Tanya Kumar, brand design lead at Netflix, explained: “We were sitting in the theatre and the 'ta-dum' would come on and it would feel so short and so abrupt that you really didn’t quite understand what you saw before you dove right into the film.”

This led the brand to re-evaluate the role of sound in a cinematic context. And the result of this collaboration with Zimmer, who is of course no stranger to cinemas himself, feels like a 16-course tasting menu. It’s a symphonic celebration of all of the success Netflix has had with its sound – and it’s rightly deserved.

But this is more than just calling up the Zimmer studio and getting him to do a version of the sound. In fact, it exemplifies great sound branding strategy.

Why? Because it takes a bit of bravery to do something different with a brand asset that has become so iconic. However, just as visual identities evolve over time, so too must sound identities. Many marketers think that when they’ve found their sound, they should plaster it on everything because that’s the way to getting it known and recognised.

But this collaboration bucks that trend. It shows an intelligent understanding of the different roles that sound needs to play in different brand contexts. It also exemplifies a “talent first” commitment to sound branding – with accolades including Golden Globes, Grammys and Academy Awards, could there have been a better composer to put this sonic triumph on the cinematic map?

Most importantly, the effect of the “ta-dum” is more than just a sound. It has a behavioural effect on viewers – prompting us to snuggle into our sofas for a few hours of escapism and making that bar of Green & Black's taste even sweeter. If the original sonic logo turned our living rooms into cinemas, this new Zimmer-fied version turns the cinema into an amphitheatre.

Well done, Netflix.

Three more great pieces of sonic branding

Sonos
Launched earlier this year, Sonos’ new audio signature composed by Philip Glass is complete sonic luxury for the premium audio brand.

Audi
The audio epitomisation of "Vorsprung durch technik" for every brand touchpoint.

BBC Radio
Call them jingles, call them whatever you like, but can you stop yourself singing along to BBC Radio 2?

Max De Lucia is founder and client director at DLMDD

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