In 1984, Chili's rolled out its version of beef fajitas in 23 of its locations. People lined up around blocks just to get a table, a phenomenon cooks dubbed the "fajita effect." The more accurate description for it, however, is a "boom" effect.
As Joel Beckerman, an award-winning composer and producer for television, explains in his book "The Sonic Boom," a boom moment is the instant where sound or music changes everything. It triggers emotions, changes your mood, and tips people off something exciting is about to happen. A boom moment, he writes, is that jolt you get when a baby starts crying or when the theme to Star Wars comes on and you get goosebumps.
For brands, the boom moment is a distinctive sound that makes people pay attention. "No other sensory input is more efficient than sound in helping craft those kinds of experiences," writes Beckerman. "The right sound at the right time has the power to tell a rich story."
Part of the reason "a sound can become more than a sound," Beckerman writes, is because in the time that it takes for you to blink, "sonic input gets directed through your auditory cortex to other parts of your brain that control memories and emotions--the hippocampus and amygdala, to name a couple." It's the reason you get nostalgic at the sound of an ice cream truck--"you don't have to be in a particular place to virtually feel the cold crack of the frozen chocolate-dipped shell," writes Beckerman--and why the rev of a motor makes you crave open road. Here's how your brand can make the same magic:
Connect to a Meaningful Experience
People love to reminisce about the good old days. And when it comes to hearing something over and over, Beckerman says cognitive psychologists have found people are "happy to hear a song play over and over--in your head or otherwise--as long as it connects you to a pleasurable experience." Be it getting what you want, providing a welcome distraction, or leading someone down memory lane, try to anticipate consumers' desires.
Transform the Experience
When a sound makes you forget about everything else, that's how you hook a customer, writes Beckerman. Chili's founder Larry Lavine had eaten fajitas for years at other Texas restaurants. But he never thought much of the dish because "they didn't put them on a sizzling platter," he later told Beckerman. "They had a tiger by the tail and they didn't know it." When he finally heard fajitas at a nearby restaurant called On the Border, he knew he was onto something.
Go With Your Gut
How a sound makes you feel tells you whether or not it's memorable. Take Ford's special edition Mustang, the Bullitt. When Mustang noise and vibration engineer Shawn Carney took Paul Randle, Mustang's chief engineer, to meet a friend, he had the buddy fire up the car so Randle would hear the distinct sound of its exhaust pipes. "Right away, he's like, 'Oh, we're doing it,'" Carney told Beckerman. Sometimes sounds just feel right.