Sonic Logos? Aren’t they just a full stop in the language of sound branding?

Campaign this week reported on Unilever CMO Keith Weed receiving Global Marketer Of The Year from the WFA. One of his key pieces of advice to members was to “measure what you treasure”.

According to Millward Brown, music is nearly 50% of the experience of the consumer. Yet very few metrics are regularly applied within the planning and creative processes to measure the value of music and sound to a brand’s marketing. How many brands measure the impact of music beyond, ‘Recall and Memorability?’ And as result, we see time and again how easily an agency will drop a piece of music without having any idea of how powerful it is for the brand.

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The most famous example of this has to be BA. After 25 successful years with the Saatchi brothers, they were wooed away to BBH in 2005. It is not uncommon for a new agency to want to develop a fresh creative approach. BBH were not unusual. They decided to drop BA’s signature tune, Delibes’s “Lakme Flower Duet” that had been used for over 25 years. Their new choice of music was a cover of John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane”.

It was an interesting move. The lyrics start with a resounding “Leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again,” which isn’t a great start for an airline promoting its services. And John Denver actually died in an air crash. Not a great combination.

It got worse.  In the time that BBH dropped the track, two other companies snatched the advantage and borrowed from the music equity that BA had developed and owned in “Lakme.” The Ford Galaxy was positioned as a stylish and aspirational car; Silverjet was a business-class only airline. They clearly understood the value of BA’s music investment. BBH quietly reinstated “Lakme”.

Today, we are dealing with the most powerful consumer that advertising has ever experienced. With their Sky Plus in one hand and their other hand hovering over the Skip Ad button as they multi-task, they rarely look up in the commercial break, but they still are listening. So the goal is that we need to engage fast with a distracted consumer- music has the ability to do this in a less than a few seconds.

How many of us play ‘guessing the intro’ on long car journeys? We can distinguish hundreds of bands from their opening chords even if we don’t know the song. A brand should have this ambition in their advertising. The possibility that every brand has a unique “sound DNA” — music genes that reflect a brand’s core values and distinguish it from any other — must merit investigation and consideration.

“What does my brand sound like?” is a question every brand should be able to answer. The first step is to understand how consumers hear music in the context of a brand’s advertising and how that influences their emotional response. Part of that journey is simply discovering and learning what, where, when, how, and why sound works for a specific brand. (Note to brands – a sonic logo is only the full stop in the language of sound branding, it means nothing if simply introduced in isolation into a campaign. Station idents have no choice and even then how many do you recognise?)

The next step toward managing and protecting the sound of your brand is the creation of a music strategy that is integrated, not at the last minute, but at the beginning with the planners. It will require new marketing metrics that align the integrity of the music use with the congruency of the brand values.

In that way, every time a brand uses music in any area of its marketing, it will be creating a sound asset. Brands will be crafting exciting intellectual properties that move beyond the packaging, the bottle, and the logo, and employ sound that works to support and enhance brand differentiation and consumer loyalty.

Then music will be not regarded as an expensive indulgence or a line in the TV production budget to argue over.  It will be easier for planning, creatives and marketing teams to justify their budget requirements, because they will understand the worth of a track to their brand and see it as something to treasure.

– Ruth Simmons, CEO, soundlounge