An Ode To Leo, The MGM Lion Eighty years ago today, movie audiences first heard the roar of the MGM lion. And it's been echoing ever since. What explains this audio logo's multigenerational appeal?
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An Ode To Leo, The MGM Lion

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An Ode To Leo, The MGM Lion

An Ode To Leo, The MGM Lion

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Here is a sound familiar to you from the movies.

(Soundbite of roar)

CHADWICK: It's Leo, the famous lion with the MGM logo. And Leo first roared on the screen 80 years ago today. He opened a 1928 film called "White Shadows on the South Seas" and the roar was played from a phonograph record. Leo is as much a part of the public image of MGM as its great movies, "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz," and "Dr. Zhivago" and "Annie Hall." And, as a logo, Leo and his roar have been as durable and lasting as any corporate mark that one can think of, or almost, anyway. To help us understand why this lion has worked so well for so long, we're joined by Hayes Roth. He's with a firm called Landor, in New York, which has been around for a while as well. Since the 1940s they've been helping companies establish and manage brands. Hayes Roth, welcome to Day to Day. And, really, this is quite a simple thing. The king of beasts turns his head and roars, and you know the movie's starting, you know it's MGM. Why does this work so well?

Mr. HAYES ROTH (Branding Consultant, Landor): I think it works for a couple of reasons. One because of all the movie logos it was the first one to have real movement in it, it was a live animal. And I think there's another element that is significant and actually pioneering, and that is sound. It is one of the first sonic brands, and you just played the sound, we all immediately went to our mind's eye. I always go to "The Wizard of Oz" when I hear and see that logo all by itself.

(Soundbite of movie "The Wizard of Oz")

Ms. MARGARET HAMILTON: (As the Wicked Witch) Aha!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROTH: That is a combination of iconic design, an iconic figure and unmistakable sound.

(Soundbite of roar)

CHADWICK: So, some companies now have audio logos like Intel.

(Soundbite of Intel logo)

CHADWICK: Or NBC, they've had this for a while.

(Soundbite of NBC logo)

Mr. ROTH: Yes. They don't use the tones quite so much anymore. Intel is the one that everybody thinks of, and then it's hard to come up with a few others. I always think of the, it's not really an advertising tone, although they should think about it, but I have a Mac, and anybody that has a Mac knows immediately that chord that plays the minute you turn it on.

(Soundbite of chord)

Mr. ROTH: There are others for software that are becoming popular, and that's really why sonic branding is becoming more important, because, thanks to the Internet and all the software programs, we're actually surrounded by more sound, not less.

CHADWICK: So sonic brands are growing, sonic ID tags. But they're mostly musical, I think. This is the roar of a lion.

Mr. ROTH: Yes.

(Soundbite of roar)

Mr. ROTH: That, well, the roar of a lion, I think that goes back to something primeval, in terms of getting your attention.

Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROTH: I think that was, and it signifies power and a bit of excitement, and so it was a great concept to begin with. And the fact that it has lasted this long and has been used so consistently, I think also is a testimony to good branding.

CHADWICK: Hayes Roth speaking with us from New York, and the offices of the branding firm, Landor. Hayes, thanks so much.

Mr. ROTH: My pleasure, thank you.

(Soundbite of song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow")

Ms. JUDY GARLAND: (Singing) Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high.

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