With new sonic logo, Qualcomm gives Snapdragon its own sound

Decades after Intel introduced its iconic “bong,” another major chipmaker has its own sound to stand out.

Qualcomm has crafted a new sonic logo for Snapdragon, the mobile processor platform powering a wave of new AI-enabled smartphones, PCs and headsets. The “Snap Beat,” which debuts today, will show up in an array of marketing efforts from Qualcomm and its various partners. 

The sonic’s concept is quite literal, but not the affect. Listening to the “snap beat” feels like an auditory wave flooding both ears before suddenly being thrown into into a cave filled with six snaps and four heartbeats. Qualcomm says ASMR — or autonomous sensory meridian response — wasn’t in the strategy, but it’s easy to hear similarities.

First introduced in 2006, the Snapdragon brand has become an increasingly prominent part of Qualcomm’s consumer marketing. However, Snapdragon still has different levels of awareness around the world. The sonic logo is a “natural step” in building the platform into a consumer brand, according to Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire. 

“Being at the heart of devices [people use] everyday, the heartbeat [is already] built into the visual identity for Snapdragon — the fireball and the history of the brand domestically, but also globally,” McGuire told Digiday. “Other cultures and other regions, how they hear music differently, respond to sound differently.”

The Snapdragon beat was born amid the ongoing AI race as it competes with other giants like Nvidia, Intel and AMD for both business and consumer awareness. This year, new Snapdragon chips will be released in a range of AI-powered smartphones and PCs from Samsung, Microsoft, Lenovo, Xiaomi and other major brands. According to a new report from IDC, AI-powered PCs could make up almost 60% of the total PCs shipped in 2027, rising from 50 million units shipped in 2024 to 167 million in three years. (Snapdragon’s extended reality platform is used in headsets like the Meta Quest, HTC Vive and an upcoming XR headset by Samsung.)

More than just music

The sound will be used as a sign-on and sign-off in short-form content across owned content, digital advertising, social media and via partner campaigns. There’s also a longer version for demo videos, using as background music various types of content, playing at Snapdragon events, in trade shows or other conferences. Another option is to have Snapdragon Insiders —  Qualcomm’s community of 14 million creators and fans — collaborate with the sound on TikTok and other platforms.

“We want to keep the sonic’s IP true to what it is,” McGuire said. “But I’m all in favor of amplification and virility for these things. I think we have several avenues that we could unleash it for people to have some fun with it.”

Sonic logos aren’t anything new. From financial firms to fast food chains, hundreds of brands have spent the past few decades making their own sounds for each industry. Some examples include Visa and Mastercard, McDonald’s and KFC, and HBO Max and Netflix. Another is Audi, which also has a heartbeat in its sonic logo.

Qualcomm also isn’t the first company in chip-making to use a sonic logo for its category. Intel introduced its iconic five-note “Intel bong” in 1994 before updating it again in 2020. Partners like Samsung and Nokia also already have their own sounds. However, the category isn’t cluttered with sounds like some other industries. (For example, in the insurance world, most major brands have their own sonic.)

Global commerce and increased competition are driving more brands to consider incorporating more sound in their strategies. Sounds are also global in ways words aren’t, according to Michael Boumendil, co-founder and president Sixième Son, the agency behind sonics for brands like Renault, Samsung, Sanofi, Huggies and Tour de France.

While many branded sonics are melodic, experts note that a pleasant tune isn’t enough. Industry standards can also be “a trap” if they cause companies to only adhere to existing norms, according to Boumendil.

“If there are standards and you only do what other people are already doing, nothing will help you emerge,” Boumendil said. “The idea is to introduce a kind of twist on things so they benefit from the category tone and people will refer to them as belonging to a category, but not losing their capacity to say, ‘We’re different.’”

Compelling results also have led more brands to consider making their own sonic logo, according to Paul Donato, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation. He noted a 2020 study by Ipsos, which found advertisers with sonic brand cues made creative assets 8.5 times more likely to lead to better ad recall. However, he also noted there’s still a need to catalog the nature of various assets to based on attributes like timbre and tonality.

“I remember going to Pandora early on and they would have musicians classifying music on 140 different dimensions,” said Donato, who spent 15 years as Nielsen’s chief research officer. “The Intel brand’s is completely different from Mastercard’s.”

How it was made

To develop the sonic logo, Qualcomm collaborated with Made Music Studio, a sonic branding and design agency that’s worked with a range of brands like AT&T, Lexus and Tostitos. Before choosing snaps and heartbeats, Qualcomm tested five unique sound attributes ranging from melodic to less melodic. The options were tested with 600 consumers in each of five major markets: U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, India and China. The potential sounds also were tested to understand how listeners perceived them alongside other sounds ranging from raindrops and crying babies to nails on a chalkboard. 

Snapdragon’s sonic also was designed for versatility and adaptability based on audience, environment, time length — and to work with various partners. With the snap beat, the sound can be cut or sped up and still make sense.

“If you make a five-note melody or seven-note melody, at least for the first 24 months it needs to remain a five-note or seven-note melody,” said Made Music president Lauren McGuire (no relation to Qualcomm’s CMO). “You can make it faster to a point — but only to a point or as humans we don’t get it. So you can’t have a three second version and a one second version of something like that.”

According to Made Music’s McGuire, the goal for Snapdragon was to convey two attributes — “driven” and “joyful” — while also creating something that would resonate with global audiences like gamers, camera enthusiasts and car fans.

“From sonic identity perspective, those are not easy attributes to have rise to the top in a single sound,” she said. “Because ‘driven’ has a certain boldness to it, and ‘joyful’ content [is] very different. But there’s something about this one that gets to both of those things.”

Beyond snaps and beats

Snapdragon’s new sonic logo is just one aspect of Qualcomm’s overall strategy. Last year, Qualcomm signed a major deal with Manchester United to make Snapdragon the soccer team’s front-of-shirt sponsor for the upcoming season. Snapdragon is also a multi-year sponsor of the Mercedes F1 racing team, and Qualcomm recently created a virtual reality experience with driver Lewis Hamilton that will be expanded this year.

Other marketing efforts include a 2022 campaign called “Edge of Possible” starring actress Michelle Yeoh, which aims to “humanize” AI. Snapdragon chips also are used by products from top fashion and audio brands including a Louis Vuitton smartwatch and Bose headphones. 

Qualcomm doesn’t disclose its ad budget. However, data from the ad-tracking firm MediaRadar shows Qualcomm, AMD, Intel, and Nvidia collectively spent $75 million for various media from January to November 2023. Half of Qualcomm’s ad spend was for online video, another 28% went toward display ads and just 1% went to paid social. (For comparison, Nvidia used 45% of ad spend for paid social while AMD used 26%.) In January 2024, Nvidia and AMD spent less year-over-year, but Intel and Qualcomm both spent more than in January 2023.

Although some tech companies recently bought Super Bowl ads to advertise AI products, Qualcomm’s McGuire said the Manchester United sponsorships for men’s and women’s teams will give Qualcomm equivalent exposure more efficiently.

“If I had to buy 40 Super Bowl ads, you can imagine how much that would cost me,” he said. “It’s not like we’re shying away from exposure or building awareness for brands. We just look at how to do it in a way that’s relevant to our audience that achieves our business objectives.”


More in Marketing

In the marketing world, anime is following in the footsteps of gaming

As marketers look to take advantage of anime’s entry into the zeitgeist, they might be wise to observe the parallels between the evolution of anime as a marketing channel and the ways brands have learned to better leverage gaming in recent years. 

With the introduction of video ads and e-commerce, Roblox looks to attain platform status

Roblox is expanding into more areas than just ads in 2024. Much like platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have transcended their origins to evolve from their origins as online marketplaces and social media channels, Roblox is in the midst of a transformation into a platform for all elements of users’ virtual lives.