Sonic Branding Brings Xbox 360 to A New Level of Customer Experience

In an initiative designed to create a seamless and three- dimensional sound experience for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, New York based sonic branding firm Audiobrain has developed an audio strategy that will be experienced across many customer touchpoints in the months to come as this highly anticipated product comes to market in November. By bringing a clear and consistent “voice” to the Xbox 360 experience, Audiobrain believes its sonic branding initiative for the Xbox 360 will help revolutionize the way the consumer interacts with the brand on multiple levels, creating a consistent personality while completely differentiating the sound of the Xbox 360 from any of its competitors.

Russ Glaser, Xbox Group UI Design Manager says, "When we set out to bring the Xbox 360 to life by infusing a sonic landscape, we were not looking for a sound design company, we were looking for a group that lived sonic branding. Audiobrain is that company. They developed a sonic dialogue that completed our established design language". In addition to the full Xbox 360 product sonification, which includes sound for the user interface, bootup animation and sonic signature, Audiobrain also created additional branded soundscapes for both the MTV Reveal Telecast on May 9th , and the Xbox 360 E3 Briefing Event, held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on May16th. Additionally, Audiobrain created a Dolby 5.1 surround sound mix for use in movie theatres and other venues.

Audrey Arbeeny, Partner and Executive Producer at Audiobrain explains: “It is strategically important for the other sound that is a part of the Xbox 360 product unveiling, such as the atmospherics in the Shrine as guests walked in, or as the executives approached the stage, or in co-branded ads such as Samsung’s, to be an extension of the tone and feel of the Xbox 360’s sonic personality. By leveraging the product and signature sounds into other touchpoints, we create a more immersive, reinforced and consistent brand experience. We worked very closely with the Xbox team to understand the Xbox 360 personality, the desired user experience, and to understand how our sound could help support the user interaction while navigating through all of the Xbox 360’s outstanding offerings.

When sound is used as a branding tool we can significantly give voice and add equity, and are extremely happy that the Xbox Branding and Product teams place such a high value on audio and its branding capabilities.” Orlena Yeung, Xbox Global Brand Marketing Manager explains, “As we evolved the Xbox brand, we firmly had in mind to create a multi-sensory interaction with the consumer. Working with Audiobrain, we successfully gave the brand a new dimension through audio that we didn't have previously." 

Before a single sound was created, Audiobrain spent months working closely with Xbox’s Brand Team and Xbox Platform User Experience Design Teams. “The Xbox team had very clear objectives when they contacted us for this project and these objectives were very straight-forward”, Ms. Arbeeny continues. “A lot was at stake, and a lot needed to be understood. The Xbox 360 is a vast leap into the future from not only the original Xbox but from all the competitive products as well. This product has evolved from a great gaming console to a monster of a multi-media machine. It’s highly interactive- a global connective tissue that now will provide even more appeal for the mainstream consumer. So we aspired to use the strategic positioning, brand attributes, market research and product usability to inform the sounds we were creating. Rather than just creating the coolest console sounds possible, we measured everything created against our criteria, what it was saying about the brand, was it right for a global audience, was it different enough and did it bring the Xbox 360 to life? And there were other considerations. Was it sustainable over time or would the sounds wear out? Most importantly, could we evolve the sound of the Xbox 360 to include a broader, more mainstream audience yet still relate to and excite the hardcore gamer? How would the user interact with the console? Where and when should the sounds occur? We looked at every facet we could to ensure the sound was unique, memorable, and right for this brand. And we believe that in capturing this, we have the best expression and most appropriate voice we could create for the Xbox 360, and that in itself is what makes this very, very cool”. 

“I don’t think people realize how much thought and effort goes into creating these sounds, that thousands are created before one is right, that many teams of people are involved in their development, that they are tested and refined and become like a person that we are all trying to bring to life. The Xbox team was amazingly involved in the sound development and placed extreme importance on it.” Xbox’s Russ Glaser adds,”We pushed very hard on Audiobrain to get the sonic mix just right. Audiobrain was relentless in pushing to hit and surpass our requirements and vision. It was a great partnership"

The Xbox 360 is described as a “living breathing entertainment system”, having the duality of high architecture meeting organic energy, reflection and refraction, cultural diversity and human interaction. All of the sounds created, whether for the user interface, sonic signature or other environments embody these characteristics and make it come alive.   Michael Sweet, Creative Director for Audiobrain, explains: “Within our iterative design process we spent a lot of time interpreting this living, breathing entertainment system and translating its brand identity through music and sound.”

“For example, the startup sound for the Xbox 360 was created with several layers of clear and consistent sound design, which is both organic and architectural in nature. This represents the human interaction of many things working together to shape an experience. It starts with a rumble that represents the enormous size of world appearing over the horizon, then a swoosh sound which is the energy coming in from the right. As the light appears we hear a shimmer, then the lower sounds collide at the visual impact and form the 'X' in the world, creating the sense of duality and searing, impactful energy. The audio then opens up into a collage of sounds which include low and high string movements, audio shimmers, and a host of other sounds, adding a three dimensional feel. Finally the startup sound concludes with the sonic signature which can be described an inhale breath which expresses human energy and a sense of wonderment and surprise. The mix of this sound gives it the reflective quality like it's coming towards you and follows the motion of the circular rings that spiral out from the center visually.”

For the Shrine Auditorium, Michael continues, “the soundscapes, which were each 20 minutes long and varying in intensity so we could build the anticipation, represented a global community of human energy coming together, and we created ambient experiences that transported the audience from a club in Brazil to a street fair in India, all with the same instrumentation, tone and feel as the Xbox 360 . So when the product was revealed, the audience already was in the right emotional place, and the sounds, since they were consistent and right for the audience and for the Xbox 360, really helped to create a continuity of experience which was extremely powerful”.

 Ms. Arbeeny concludes: “We feel that on all levels the sonic signature, user interface and all other audio created are very authentic to this brand, and create a seamless customer experience. The Xbox 360 signature will become a recognizable, differentiating and valuable sound asset for years to come. It is both challenging and rewarding to be able to capture the personality of a brand in a few short seconds, and we feel the sonic signature for the Xbox 360 does exactly that. Hopefully more and more companies will think of their customer experience the way the Xbox team has, and realize that their customers deserve the best, most exciting and consistent brand experience possible”.

The Xbox 360 is scheduled to be released in November 2005.

For more information on the “Sound” Marketing Behind the Xbox360 (due out this November), or to experience the branding sounds in an audio CD or mp3 contact Judith S. Lederman at 914-636-2330. 

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