By Ashley Mateo
1. Why is my appliance serenading me?
It's a form of branding. "The little tunes appliances have started spitting out these days are known as audio logos," explained James Kellaris, a composer, musician and professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati, where he studies sonic branding. Samsung's Electric Dryer ($599, samsung.com) finishes a tumble cycle with 30 seconds of Schubert's "Die Forelle," while LG's QuadWash plays a delightful 10-second ditty when the dishes are done.
2. How exactly does an appliance play music?
In many cases, the same sort of buzzer that roused you to check your laundry in the 1980s now plays a more complicated collection of beeps to craft a melody. In newer machines, however, said Richard Hughes, a principal designer in advanced user experience at Whirlpool, engineers have added chips akin to those found in smartphones to deliver higher-quality audio. Example: His brand's Smart All-In-One Washer & Dryer ($1,699, whirlpool.com) performs an original tune that includes sounds of fingertips drumming on denim.
3. What am I getting out of this?
The supposedly valuable ability to heed the call of a specific device among the many chiming, dinging and pinging for your attention. "An audio logo can cut through the clutter of multiple devices and appliances calling out to us," said Mr. Kellaris. Some inanimate devices aspire to have entire melodic conversations with us, added Mr. Hughes: The musical notification you hear when KitchenAid's Smart Oven+ ($3,299, kitchenaid.com) is preheated differs from the one you hear when your cook time is up, keeping you informed even as you complete other tasks around the home.
4. But what's the company getting out of it?
Customer allegiance, theoretically. "These sounds ensure that our products are easily identifiable with the Samsung brand," said Shane Higby, vice president of home appliance product marketing for the company. Appliance makers view sonic branding as a low-cost investment that inspires loyalty, even at the risk of irritation. "An audio logo is a reminder that the brand is there to serve consumers -- sort of a free ad," said Mr. Kellaris. Sounds, he believes, can also convey certain attributes of a machine: sturdiness, fun, elegance.
5. Ok, but how do I turn the damn thing off?
Maybe you're disinclined to add a jingle seemingly inspired by the English folk tune "The Lincolnshire Poacher" to the cacophony of the phones, TVs, smart homes and other constantly pinging appliances invading your home. Find instructions for how to turn off each appliance's electronic melodies in the user manual if you didn't already toss it, or otherwise check YouTube. Then again, having your child learn Schubert from the dryer could save you a bundle on private lessons.
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