“Most Addictive” Sounds Mostly Jingles, Machine Noises


Buyology Inc. and Elias Arts conducted a “neuromarketing” experiment, measuring the responses (including pupil dilation and brainwaves) to a number of sounds, seeking to identify the most “addictive” — that is, capable of creating a response outside of context.

The top finisher was “baby giggle,” but that was it for nature in the top ten. #2 was the Intel theme, followed by “vibrating phone,” the beeping and whirring of an ATM or cash register, and the themes of National Geographic and MTV.

Some other “non-branded” sounds are also potent — sizzling steak, for example, or cans being popped and poured from. But they may not be non-branded for long. Buyology’s Martin Lindstrom tells Time that marketers will attempt to own these sounds — presumably by repetitive use, not by trademark. “What’s really fascinating is none of those sounds today are owned by corporations,” says Lindstrom. “That is going to change over the next couple of years.”

He also says that the sound of a cigarette being lit, even in the context of anti-smoking commercials, makes people want to smoke.

None of the reports mention whether Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, speeches from Shakespeare, or church hymns were tested, but we’re guessing not: no commercial appeal.