Snap, Crackle, Pop: Sounds that Sell

If you’ve ever opened a Snapple bottle, you’re no doubt familiar with the “pop” (or “click”) sound the cap makes when opened. The Wall Street Journal, in this piece, investigates how firms are doing research for pleasing sounds. Turns out, product noises are a big deal in market research.

The most interesting bit was about Mascara making a sound:

Last month, Clinique introduced High Impact Extreme Volume mascara, which produces a soft, crisp click when the top is twisted shut. The click reassures users that the package is closed and the liquid mascara won’t dry out. But more subtly, Mr. Owen says, the click conveys the elegance of the $19.50 formula.

Mr. Owen and his team fiddled with some 40 prototypes of inner parts of the mascara tube, paying particular attention to the tiny, curved plastic tab, called a “nib,” that emits the click when the top twists over it. By adjusting the slope of the curve and a corresponding tab located inside the top, designers could alter the click’s tone. A steep curve made a high-pitched click, which the team thought sounded cheap. A flatter curve made a dull sound. “We sweated that detail,” Mr. Owen says. “You have to pay attention to it and manage it through all the materials you consider and all the manufacturing steps to be sure you get it right.”

One of the largest companies in the United States, General Electric,

[W]orked with a sound designer who composed a “soundtrack” for each of its four major brands. Instead of beeps, rings and buzzes, the appliances play snippets of their song. Turn on a machine and hear the music crescendo; turn it off, and the same snippet decrescendos. For time-sensitive alerts, like a timer, the music becomes increasingly urgent.

Each brand’s music is meant to appeal to the target customer. Hotpoint, a budget-friendly line, will have a grunge-rock tune. The Monogram line, GE’s priciest, will feature light piano music. “This is more Aaron Copland,” says David Bingham, GE Appliances’ senior interaction designer. “Very forward-looking and elegant-feeling.”

Interesting throughout.

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