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Measuring the Subconscious Impact of Sound to Improve Sonic Appeal & Drive Behavior

Sentient Decision Science takes studying the unconscious to new levels with Man Made Music to build brand equity, and creating demand for SonicPulse® Research.

Editor’s Note: Every year, participants in the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report survey vote for the most innovative companies in market research. In Insights That Work, these top companies share the real-life challenges and solutions of their biggest clients.


The challenge was to help Man Made Music – a global sonic studio that creates iconic music and sound for brands and entertainment companies including AT&T, Nissan, iRobot, MetLife, CBS, ESPN, Disney, and IMAX – put effectiveness at the forefront of creativity by measuring the impact of music and sound. Man Made Music’s work is guided by Sonic Humanism™, the belief that the strategic implementation or removal of sound can make our lives both richer and simpler. We needed to help their proprietary SonicPulse® Research offering bring more sensitive and actionable, quantitative measures to their work
and their clients.


Methodologies designed by Sentient for Man Made Music’s SonicPulse® Research offering include innovative applications of Sentient Prime® Implicit Association and Response Latency techniques to understand subconscious associations and intuitive responses to sounds. We’ve also incorporated eye tracking, CLT-based experience evaluation, discrete choice, and traditional conscious measures to assess meaning and emotional impact, and how they drive behavioral outcomes. These approaches are applied to sonic creative development for brand identity, UX/UI and everyday experiences like shopping, banking, broadcast media, and interacting with products and devices.

Our work has enabled development of a quantitative Sonic Humanism Spectrum—a unified database of discrete sounds and sonic environments spanning every level of emotional-motivational impact, from the least- to most-appealing natural sounds, that serves as the reference scale for judging impacts of new and existing designed sounds. This objective research tool allows us to answer questions like: “Is your sonic logo or product sound closer to the most attractive natural sounds, like baby laughter or birds chirping, or does it affect consumers more like nails on a chalkboard or a pained scream?” We quantified the behavioral impacts of these sounds, demonstrating an 86% correlation between how a sound makes you feel subconsciously and your conscious desire to have that experience again or avoid it.


We’re now able to help Man Made Music quantify the benefits of Sonic Humanism™ and prove the value of their approach for creating the most effective and impactful music and sound for brand, product and entertainment experiences. This has increased demand for Man Made’s services and more than doubled the use of SonicPulse® Research in their client work. In fact, SonicPulse® Research is used in nearly all their most innovative projects, including recent work designing the future sound of electric vehicles for Nissan, balancing safety with iconic brand attribution.

It’s also been used to demonstrate the value of Man Made Music’s sonic design principles and creative work for emerging technologies like Voice Assistants (e.g. Amazon Echo). It’s evaluated the development of soundscapes created for environments that require focus, anxiety relief, motivation, and increased productivity. And it’s used in the creation and assessment of sonics for brands like AT&T, MetLife, and Citi. This exclusive capability is a significant step in advancing sonic design principles to improve life experiences and business outcomes.

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