How sound branding and aluminum changed ringtones forever: The story of the BeoCom2

Did you ever try to take a phone call only to notice that it was someone else’s phone ringing? A lot of us have that as we use default ringing tones. They are kind of catchy, aren’t they? You may even tell what brand of phone it is, but about that later.
What not all of us remember is that there was a time when all telephones – yes, telephones, not smartphones or iphones – sounded similar. Does that ring a bell? Maybe not, because of what happened some time ago. Now what if I told you that it had a lot to do with how sound branding and aluminum falling to the ground was used in design?

See for yourself how sound branding and aluminum work together:

Well, there is a connection between pipes and cobblestone on a Danish street and an old corded phone back in 1993 – and that connection is sound. Before that time, you could naturally hear the difference between phone sounds, but none of them matched the branded sound of Nokia’s cell phone.

That was until the BeoCom2, after which the branded silence was broken forever.

It was when a Danish luxury hi-fi manufacturer Bang & Olufsen commissioned the composer Kenneth Knudsen to design a distinctive, smooth and unique sound for the launch of their new corded phone. The sound had one job: to be distinctive enough to serve as an unmistakable audio logo for B&O; and yes, it had a lot to do with aluminum pipes.
the task required creativity and innovation as the sound design needed to embody the entire identity of the brand and a phone. Therefore, it had to include much more than a sequence of tones. As a result, the sound design combined musical notes with the sound on falling aluminum pipes, which provided an acoustic texture of glass and metal – the components of the phone itself.
The resulting sound proved to be much more than a tone. It was human. It was alive. The sound communicated a mood, a feeling and an impression. It refined an existing sensory touchpoint and created additional brand equity for B &O. The BeoCom2 ringing tune raised the standard of corded phone manufacturing forever.

Back then I, Birgitte Rode as head of Audio Management – later Soundbranding, knew.

I knew that the BeoCom2 sound made you feel at home and would be instantly recognizable, that it was human. Poul Praestgaard, Senior Technology & Innovation Manager at Acoustics Research predicted that the “humanization” element will become the future for B&O, as it supports core brand values and adds a whole new sensory dimension to B&O product identification.
In fact, the BeoCom2 case is what inspired a change for Nokia, at the Audio Branding Academy event, November 2011 in New York. Nokia picked up “human” as its brand value and design parameter for all its future audio assets. That is why professionals now call phone sounds ringing tunes, our ringtones, as they are now much more than musical tones, and much more than the sound of falling aluminum. They are human. This is how sound branding and aluminum changed ringtones forever.

Learn more about the Bang & Olufsen and more sound branding cases at:

I presented the story of the B &O Corporate Audio Identity concept designed by Soundbranding, adapted from:

Lindstrom, Martin (2005). Brand sense. Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound. Simon & Schuster Inc., p. 81, 82.