HDFC was facing a perplexing challenge in its journey from hi-touch to hi-tech. “With fewer interactions at the branch, getting emotional connect for the brand was a challenge,” admits Kartik Jain, head – marketing, HDFC Bank. The bank turned to an unlikely solution: deploying sound in a structured-manner. The bank hired Soundmusiq for an intensive sonic branding endeavour which has been recently rolled out across touchpoints. These include all ATMs with a sound card, NetBanking, PhoneBanking IVR and hold music, YouTube videos, Mobile apps, employee caller tunes and ring tones.
A leap of faith for a brand that has been wary of splurging on print and television. It rolled out a TV campaign after a gap of nearly five years. Sound evokes memories, can help create an emotional layer. At the same time, the mnemonic is fundamentally digital, thus putting it in a sweet spot.
The banking brand is not the only using sound to give it a distinct connect. Lenovo is in the midst of an extensive sonic branding project, touted to be a global roll-out. Bhaskar Choudhuri, director – marketing, Lenovo India refused to share details, but believes very few brands use sound in a strategic way. Being under-leveraged and under-populated, gives brands an opportunity to make a distinct statement. “For a relatively new tech brand like us, it provides an opportunity to leapfrog,” he adds.
With increasing visual clutter, brands are realising the importance of properties that communicate and strengthen core values, not necessarily via TV. Says Richa Arora, chief operating officer, consumer products business, Tata Chemicals, “Over time, sonic identity will subconsciously acquire a deeper meaning.” Tata Chemicals has already implemented sonic branding for its newly launched Tata Sampann brand and is close to a roll-out for the flagship Tata Salt Branding via sound is relatively unchartered terrain the world over. In India, Rajeev Raja co-founded India’s first specialised outfit Brandmusiq after many years in advertising. For Raja, music was always a key driver (he performs with retro rockers Wanted Yesterday). But he’d hit a stage where “I had to decide between ‘same-spot bicycling’ or trying something new.” And so Brandmusiq launched in 2012, specialising in sonic branding through creation of a mogo (musical logo) and mogoscape.
A mix of art and science, it’s a three stage process: Brand Discovery in which brand-owners articulate the brand’s vision, persona and values, within a structure best suited to creating a sonic identity, followed by Sonic Moodboards, in which “we present ‘sketches of sound’ to initiate an understanding of the ‘zone of sound and instrumentation’ that the brand can operate in which best reflects its persona and values, shares Raja. The final stage is Mogo/Mogoscape creation in which the final sonic identity is created. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more.
In a cluttered, over-exposed world a sonic identity could provide brands a layer of emotion and recognition sustainably and memorably, the Holy Grail for all brands. “Nearly every brand is a multi-platform brand now, and the sonic opportunities are limitless. Just think that all the customers are now walking around with a speaker in their pocket!” says Joel Beckerman, founder of one of the oldest sonic branding agencies, the US based Man Made Music. (Read – Making The Right Sounds)
Richa Arora of Tata Chemicals sees the mogo as a longterm brand asset, to be deployed the way they would a logo or visual identity: consistently across all communications and consumer touch points: From TVC, radio ads, digital to events, activations… even ringtones, she shares. The mogo in its ultimate form goes beyond an audio mnemonic to creating an audio signature. One key challenge is people confusing it with a jingle which really are two separate things. “The issue is to shift the benchmark of brand owners from a tactical ‘jingle’ to owning a strategic long term ‘sonic identity’ as an asset”, says Raja.
Joel Beckerman, of ‘Man Made Music’ creator of sonic identities for AT&T, HBO, Imax, Southwest Airlines etc, shares his vision for this niche form of branding
Man Made has been in business 17 years. Our work has always been about sonic branding — even before the term was fashionable. We’ve moved from a communication focused to an experience focused world. Brands need to make emotional connections with al l their audiences. It’s as if Apple showed the world that loved brands do better business. General market brands in technology, communications, airlines, retail, restaurants — even financial services — approach us to tap into our entertainment expertise and help tell their story with music and sound. It is an incredibly efficient shortcut to emotion. Every brand is different, and everyone has different sonic opportunities. There are no cookie cutter solutions.
Why Sonic Now?
Nearly every brand is a multiplatform brand now, and the sonic opportunities are limitless. Just think that all the customers are now walking around with a speaker in their pocket! Usually people come to us just looking for a sonic logo as a sign-off for their advertising, or a sound for their app. We introduce them to our approach which is about creating a sonic strategy for the brand and giving them an authentic voice that delivers on their brand and business objectives and that’s where the fun begins.
What are the major challenges?
When brand strategy is either unclear or emotionally flat, or when key stakeholders have very different visions. We need a clear, powerful story to tell to create work that is meaningful and will stand the test of time. It also can be a bit of a challenge when key stakeholders are not involved from the beginning. Many CEOs, CMOs and even COOs have been involved in our workshops. We’ve learned so much about some brands from executives who might not consider themselves ‘creative’. Nearly anyone can identify when music and sound feels right and synchs with their vision of the brand.
(This article was published on December 23, 2015) – The Economic Times