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Ta-dum! The unmistakable sound of home entertainment has now been given a big screen makeover thanks to legendary composer Hans Zimmer. Max De Lucio, co-founder of sonic branding firm DLMDD, explains why marketers should listen carefully to Netflix's mastery of audio. 

As we turned to streaming subscriptions to fill the void, the ubiquitous Netflix “Ta-dum!” became for many the sound of lockdown. And even though we are gradually leaving our houses again, Netflix continues to utilise the power of sound to stay on top.

It’s been a long six months of the kitchen table workstation, dreaded home workouts and loosely covered-up yawns on virtual team calls (dare I mention the Z word). Switching off to escape the daily grind has been nothing short of a necessity – and a luxury – for most of us in 2020.

Naturally, we all turned to television. Ofcom had reported that adults spent 6.5 hours a day on average watching TV or videos online during lockdown and viewing figures for video streaming services are up a massive 71% on 2019.

For millions, Netflix has been the go-to. It feels like a warm hug and gives a familiar sense of relaxation. There’s a release of tension just typing 'Netflix' into the search engine – and one that I certainly don’t get with other streaming services (Amazon Prime … is just so, cold?). Despite the ever-increasing options available for VoD services Netflix seems to be the omnipresent, reigning champ, accounting for a third of all streamed video in March.

But why? The content of course. But a recent podcast by Twenty Thousand Hertz celebrated the ubiquitous Netflix “ta-dum!” – the four second sound logo at the start of every show. Netflix did something spectacularly brilliant when it created this now world-famous sonic identity. Recognised the world over, it’s a sound that makes you sit up as soon as you hear it.

It’s a cult fan favourite and you can probably hear it in your head right now. It was intentionally created to give you that immediate, immersive sense of being in the Netflix world, of directly preparing you to forget your woes and worries and granting you permission to forget about the outside for a bit.

The original Ta-dum: 

As we tentatively move out of this global nightmare, get back to offices, restaurants and, well, normal human functions, there’s the potential for streaming services to take a hit. But Netflix is once again on the money, staying ahead of the curve and keeping things fresh in the world of sound – this time gearing up for its foray into real cinemas.

In a clever, strategic, and ultimately fantastic move, it has buddied up with world renowned film composer Hans Zimmer to create the sound of the Netflix brand on a cinematic scale. And its really, really good.

There’s no doubt that creating this extended sonic identity is a bold move. The original Netflix “ta-dum!” is A1. It’s like Pavlov’s Dog – the repetition of that four second sonic every time you press play on a Netflix show – no matter the genre –gets you ready to be entertained. It’s an unshakeable connection wired in our brains. So making any changes to that connection is a pretty big decision – a brave one that’s turned out to be a great one.

It aligns Netflix with one of the big guns of cinema. Hans Zimmer is of course the legendary composer behind the scores for blockbusters including Gladiator, Inception, The Dark Knight, and Netflix’s own The Crown. He’s nothing short of a Hollywood movie rock star – so this collaboration with Zimmer, regardless of the end product, is a triumph of solid brand strategy.

That said, the end product is of course a winner. The years of investment and groundwork that have already gone into the original “ta-dum” actually allowed for this process of expansion and exploration to be more straightforward. Netflix already knew what it sounded like as a brand, the job for Zimmer was to take that and transform it into a longer, but just as captivating, sonic for cinema. And the best part is that it really does sound like Netflix – the hint of “ta-dum” is alive and well.

Ultimately, the 16-second, supercharged version works to move the Netflix brand forward. It stands up against the cinema greats - 20th Century Fox, the MGM Lion, and THX. It’s fresh. It’s smart. It’s innovative - it’s exactly how all brands should be using sound, as a focal point for engagement and connection.