Amazon Freevee is a free, ad-supported, premium streaming service. It launched in 2019 as IMDB Freedive, before becoming IMDB TV later that year. As part of its rebrand in early 2022, the platform became Freevee. With a unique format that lies between contemporary streaming and classic broadcast television, the Freevee viewing experience feels simultaneously familiar and cutting edge.
Working closely with the team at Freevee, we crafted two versions of a versatile sonic mnemonic, a shorter asset for marketing and a longer, more cinematic version that plays before content. Rolyn Barthelman, Brand Creative & Design Lead at Freevee, introduces the brand: We chose our new name because it accomplished both making our offering clear and making it known that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. Entertainment is supposed to be fun after all. What drove that naming decision was also at the center of shaping our mnemonic.
The mnemonic needed to be memorable, friendly and cohesive with Freevee’s vibrant visual identity. Versatility was also key because the mnemonic would be implemented across many use cases and alongside diverse content.
Mnemonic devices often employ one or more of four traditional mnemonic mechanisms: melodic, sound design, songlike & semantic. A semantic sonic brand is based on an articulation of the brand name itself. Often this mechanism is easy to eliminate, especially when the market is already familiar with a brand and including its name in a mnemonic brings no additional value.
Although we explored multiple viable avenues, in Freevee’s case, a semantic mnemonic offered a strategic advantage as they introduced their brand into a vast competitive landscape of streaming services. In short, repeat exposure to a semantic device within the Freevee platform and across marketing channels would enable the brand to build equity and familiarity across the market. We also needed to ensure the sonic was catchy with enough personality that it was interesting without becoming annoying after repeat exposure.
“Part of our challenge was how we sonically expressed the concept of ‘free,’ while avoiding any associations with ‘cheap.’ Amazon wanted to communicate premium quality, especially to potential advertisers. When we articulated the ‘free’ in ‘Freevee,’ it needed to express freedom.” - Jennifer Fife, Antfood Producer.
Vibrant animations from design studio BUCK accompany the mnemonic.
Living in the midst of other streaming giants, Freevee needed to carve its own space while remaining aesthetically competitive. The harmonic motion of the vocal portion is inspired by the plagal cadence, one of the most ubiquitous gestures in western music that often conveys praise, conclusion, or a sense of gratitude. This harmony brings an angelic connotation, which we intentionally leaned into to support the feeling of bliss associated with getting something for free. Earlier versions of this vocal performance sounded too religious, which is why the more ambiguous voice works so well. Instrumentally, our aesthetic choices were informed by the visual logo’s bold color palette and confident motion.
Using a voice in mnemonic devices comes with its own set of challenges. Voices must be clear, recognisable and universal — being expressive while remaining inclusive. A single voice conveys a different sentiment than a choir. Tuned and processed voices different meanings than authentic, imperfect human voices.
“Unlike with an instrument like a cello or piano, we as humans are hardwired to be incredibly perceptive to small vocal changes.” Yuta Endo, Antfood Creative Director, explains. “When combining vocal attributes like shouted, spoken and sung, one, few and many, and female, male and androgynous, the variations are endless. In addition, since the human voice is such a complex sound, different vocal recordings respond very differently to the same vocal processing signal chains. For example, the same filter or reverb effect sounds quite different in a male vs female voice. Thus, finding the exact combination of vocal recording and processing technique is a difficult, but worthwhile challenge.”
We used a bright choir of voices to give the sound a playful and slightly irreverent energy. Yuta describes the importance of vocal treatments in creating the right level of abstraction: “When the voice was free of any audio processing, we discovered that while it captured the energy and vibrance of the brand, sonic fatigue kicked in after multiple listens. On the other hand, with too much abstraction, the dense layers of audio processing made it difficult to hear the word “Freevee” clearly. We spent many days experimenting with the amounts and types of audio processing to arrive at a sonic that preserved the intelligibility of “Freevee” and held up on repeated listens.”
The mnemonic’s setting and use cases also helped to define the overall shape and structure of the sonic. Freevee is ad-supported, meaning that the sonic is not only heard as an introduction but also during commercial breaks and in marketing content. We needed to ensure the sonic was appropriate for all such applications, and ensure versatility so that it wasn’t disruptive for certain moods & shows, or annoying for a user watching episode after episode of a series.
Our mnemonic is designed to work with a modular swelling element that can flex and evolve based on context. While this initial lead-in can vary, the core of the mnemonic - the articulation of the brand name - will always stay the same. This two-part structure offers the flexibility to adapt the sound for different use cases while maintaining an ownable sonic core that reinforces the Freevee brand name.
When used as an intro, the mnemonic has no preceding music, dialogue, or sound design. “This meant that there were fewer restrictions for implementation”, Yuta explains. “However, as an outro, the preceding content often had an underlying musical key or mood/energy that carried over into the outro. Therefore, we created a short beginning section within the mnemonic with a filtered synth pad and musical flourish that acted as a palette cleanser before the start of the full vocalization. This allowed enough room for the more expressive vocalization to seamlessly follow different types of content.”
Freevee’s Rolyn Barthelman reflects: “We were thrilled to work with Antfood on our brand mnemonic as part of reimagining Amazon’s ad-supported streaming service. This project required a considerable amount of collaborative searching together for what felt right for this brand, and Antfood stayed deeply invested and adventurous throughout the process. They explored fully instrumental articulations, as well as expressions that explicitly said the name. Ultimately, we found a sweet spot in the middle, leaning into the sonic rhythm of the two syllables of the name. This allowed us to reinforce the name while still having it feel entirely musical. Antfood paid incredible attention to the details, and the results show with our delightful mnemonic.“
Freevee Branding Credits:
Animation & Design: BUCK
Sonic Branding: Antfood