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Weaving with sound: Etihad’s sonic identity blends tradition and modernity

Amina Taher, Vice President of Brand, Marketing & Sponsorships at Etihad, comments on the brand’s sonic identity and its connection with the Emirati culture.

By Sofia Serrano

As a brand, in general, you always want to connect with people’s emotions and senses in a way that eventually can create loyalty towards your brand. “For this reason, for Etihad is always about the heart,” says Amina Taher, Vice President of Brand, Marketing and Partnerships at Etihad airways. She is explaining the latest sonic identity created for Etihad.

A sonic identity is a unique sound or music connected to a specific brand, it is the translation in audio of the personality of the brand. That is why the sonic identity is more than a jingle. There is science behind the power of audio. “We associate songs to emotions and that stays with you for a long time,” says Taher.

Etihad wants to bring the world to Abu Dhabi and the vice-president says the brand wears its heritage with pride and the sonic identity is one of the many ways it shows this.

“We are proud to be one of the few brands in the world with a full sonic identity, which means we not only have a unique look and feel but a distinct brand sound that is unique to us and to Abu Dhabi and our DNA. We wanted to ensure our Emirati roots are incorporated in our sonic design to face the world,” says Taher.

The music uses the technique known as El Sadu, a traditional musical style in the UAE, that Taher compares to weaving, because of its method of blending melodies that overlap and respond to each other. The song features a mix of local and regional instruments including the ney, kanoon and oriental percussion to ensure an authentic sound. The musicians include regional artists, reflecting the diversity of nationalities in the UAE to celebrate the inclusiveness of the country. The sonic identity also reflects the UAE today, while incorporating elements of its history and DNA.

Etihad partnered with Sixième Son, a Paris-based branding agency. The song was subject to focus groups, which included staff and external individuals, to determine which sound related better with the identity of the brand, so that it made Emiratis feel at home, feel like they are in Abu Dhabi.

The sonic identity is being shared across all of Etihad’s verticals so that the guests will listen to dozens of bespoke music tracks which have been built from a single sonic DNA when on board, in lounges, at events, when calling the contact centre, on the radio, and across Etihad’s branded content.

The team worked on the sonic identity for 18 months from the conception to the launch and Etihad Airways won Gold for ‘Best Use of Audio Branding’ in the Transform Awards MENA.

“Anything you do in terms of success is about the people, and I had the privilege to work with an amazing team. They work with their heart and so much passion, so this is a celebration and success of my team,” says Taher.

Amina also reminisces about how her grandmother knew poetry, history and the Quran by heart, even though she didn’t know how to read and write, emphasising how Emirati society comes from an oral-driven tradition, resulting in music and poetry being important elements of the culture. Therefore, it is rooted in the culture of an Emirati brand to have a sonic identity.

Taher also says the sonic identity came at a time, during the pandemic when people were overloaded with visuals. Etihad wanted to touch other senses in an intimate and engaging manner, with audio being the selected approach.


Agency: Sixième Son

  • President & Chief Creative Officer: Michaël Boumendil
  • Managing Director: Laurent Cochini
  • Artistic Directors: Vincent Turbé & Julien Goris
  • Creatives: Eric Caissy, Marion Combes, Alice Lépine, Alexis Mangou, Ianis Mauraisin,
  • Pierre Moreau

Brand: Etihad Airways

  • Amina Taher: Vice President Brand, Marketing & Sponsorships
  • Ansar Babu: Global Head of Marketing
  • Aishwarya Nambiar: Brand Manager, Brand, Marketing & Sponsorships
  • Simon Kamsky: Senior Marketing Manager