How do you explain the significance of the sound of a brand?
Sound of a brand may sound primitive in this modern age, but not many people know how to get it right. Brands have a DNA of sound, whoever answers the phone is the voice of that brand; sound on your website also defines the sound of your brand. This coffee shop plays instrumental pop music, and they play Mozart in the elevators in this hotel (Taj Lands End, Mumbai). Those are the sounds of the brand of Taj. Sound has an immense effect on our senses. You start hearing as a foetus and therefore the mother-child bond is formed six to seven months before you are actually born, through the sense of hearing. The connection established through the sense of smell and sight only comes after that. That’s how integral sound is in establishing a connect.
What concerns you the most in the business of evolving the sound of a brand?
We often tend to ignore the importance of sound because we live in a visual world where every single thing that we see has been designed and thought about, while everything you hear is not, it’s just there. Less than four per cent of the Fortune 1000 companies have active sound that interacts with consumers. I mentioned the sound of Taj earlier but the question is has this actually being thought about, our has someone mindlessly put in a CD, just for the sake of playing some music? The degree to which any brand has got acoustic treatement, is the sound of the brand and it has to be thought through. Most of the restaurants’ music is mindless, it has got nothing to do with the ambiance of that place. It is hard to talk against a certain kind of music (like Jazz), but most people are unaware of that. Some restaurants have experiemented with the kind of music they would play in. They tried playing rock for a month, classic for another and no music for the third one. People actually stayed longer when they were playing classic music, and that soared their earnings as well. It shows that if you put some thinking behind the sound of your brand, you can actually reap profits out of it.
Any brands that have been able to use sound profitably?
Intel is definitely one. I can tell you that there isn’t one person in ten million who would have seen the product, but you recognise the brand through its sound and a logo. Nokia, one of the most used brand in the world has made good use of sound. And then there’s Microsft Windows which has a start-up sound but they haven’t been able to use it in their advertising.
How do agencies and advertisers respond to the importance of sound of a brand?
If you look at the total number of entries sent to Cannes this year, 34% were print, 29% TV, 28% outdoor, 16% online and 8.5% in radio. (approximate figures). It clearly shows that the world’s creative directors were four times proud of their print work than their radio work. That’s because creative people still don’t have the right skills to use the medium of radio. And I’m here to teach them the skills. But the message has to be delivered to both the agencies as well as the advertisers. Agencies used to be the seat of wisdom earlier, but that doesn’t exist anymore. Because there are so many specialised agencies these days, creative agencies have lost their blackbox and the real power seems to lie with the client. So while it is important to teach the skills to the creative agencies, it is equally important to interact with the clients to make them understand the importance of the sound of their brand.
You have worked with Creativeland Asia, an independent Indian agency, in the past (on Hippo). How was the experience?
It was good fun, to begin with. Raj Kurup had found me through this group called ‘The Network One’. We did the work before we actually met, through skype. It was an interesting experience to have worked with an agency that could tell the difference between ordinary and exceptional work. I always tell my clients that you don’t have to pay me if you can’t tell the difference. You hire the best photographer for a print ad so that it stands out, you hire the best director for a TVC, it bothers me that you can’t tell the difference in radio. But Creativeland Asia was an agency that could tell the difference and that shows that agencies are waking up to the importance of sound of a brand. They just need to be taught the right skills.