Sound branding or music marketing?
Af: Jesper Ramsgaard
There are different understandings of how sound branding can be applied in a company praxis.
As sound branding is a relatively new branding discipline there are ongoing discussions of what can rightly be named sound branding opposed to music marketing and isolated commercials using a catchy tune. This article describes our classification of two different approaches.￼￼
Sound branding is the strategic use of sound to create an auditory identity for the brand (Jackson 2003). In the book Sounds Like Branding (2010) the author and CEO Jakob Lusensky from Heartbeat International presents four stages of strategic management of music.
In the book, the first strategic step in sound branding is companies’ unconscious use of music; the play-as-we-go ad hoc management. Second step is the conscious stage where companies have “developed their own music identity through sounds and carefully chosen values” (Lusensky 2010, p.4). It is described as the stage where companies develop a sound logo or theme song which becomes a brand element and hence strategic tool to the company (Lusensky 2010). Step 3 “Involved in music” and step 4 “strategic platform in music” describe strategies where companies collaborate with the music industry e.g. through co-branding by functioning as a record label (e.g. Heineken and Groove Amanda) or by providing a music platform for music artists and consumers (E.g. Tak Rock by Royal Beer, a sponsor-platform for upcoming bands in Denmark or Joe and the Juice, a Danish juice and coffee chain with a ear-catching club/dance music concept).
Lusensky offers an categorization to the various sound branding strategies that are seen in the field, however, the steps implies that a company cannot implement music collaboration (step 3) without having established a corporate sound identity (step 2). In my opinion these proposed four stages should not be seen in prolongation of each other or as incremental steps towards “true” sound branding management. Where the branding discipline is concerned with long term strategy of building the brand and managing the overall identity, marketing is of a more tactic nature with short term goals related to the marketing mix and sales activities (see e.g. Balmer 2001). I will in the following paragraph argue that the conscious stage (step 2) and active music involvement stage (step 3) are two very different approaches that can be executed side by side. The two approaches are better distinguished as sound branding and music marketing.
Heartbeats International argues that sound branding becomes an entertainment element that “turns consumers into fans”. One way is to position the brand through powerful brands experiences with use of artists and music as entertainment e.g. in events of live communication (Lusensky 2010) or marketing communication such as campaigns and TV-advertisement (Graakjær 2010 and 2008, Bruner 1990). This can be done by artists endorsement (e.g. Giorgio Armani & Beyoncé and SAS & Tina Dickow), co-branding e.g. by signing a band and be a record label (e.g. Bacardi & Groove Amanda) or by establish an entire music platform for artists to evolve and exchange and create music (e.g. Tak Rock by Royal Beer and PepsiCo’s Green Label Sound). Companies in this league of artist collaboration cannot afford to treat music in an ad-hoc fashion (Kilian 2007 in: Bronner & Hirt 2007) neither financially nor brand image wise.
Back in the late 80’s experiential aspects of consumption experiences came in focus and the concept of hedonic consumption was described by e.g. Hirschman and Holbrook (in: Lacher 1989). Music as a product for hedonic consumption itself also received attention (Lacher 1989). Strategies where the music industry becomes an important player, and/or where artist co- branding holds a central role in the marketing, all have the purpose of transfer associations from artists, genres and lifestyles to build brand image and brand equity. Zander (2006) argues that music can lead to significantly different impressions of the brand depending on musical style without affecting general evaluation of the product. Hung (2001) found respondents’ perception of a shopping mall presented in a video changed with the background music. Depending on music, the mall was either perceived as high-end, with emphasis on women’s fashion, jewelry, or as young, in, and active, with focus on designers, models, and young movie stars.
More “corporate branding” minded music and sound can also be composed specifically for the brand by music designers. The strategy is to align the designed sound and music in companies’ communicative touch points to create a corporate sound identity that supports the visual brand identity (Bronner & Hirt 2007). In this approach brand sound experiences is not created through entertainment involving the music industry but with the specific purpose of creating an audible and easily recognizable “red thread” through corporate touch points. That could be everything from sound on websites, to IVR on-hold music in telephone systems, sound logos, functional sounds like ringtones and computer sounds, to entire “corporate soundtracks” (Kilian 2007 In: Bronner & Hirt 2007, Lusensky 2010).
Kilian (2007 In: Bronner & Hirt 2007) makes a distinction of what he labels “Brand Sounds” and “Music Collaboration” (see the framework below). Brand sounds include brand songs, jingles, sound logos, brand soundscapes and themes whereas music collaboration includes music compilations, music sponsoring and -events and product/ brand name placement (Bronner & Hirt 2007). The classification illustrates the difference in the type of music that is primarily associated to the brand and the type of music that is primarily associated to the performing artist but shared by the company. “Brand Sounds” are developed specifically with a supportive purpose and add an extra dimension to an existing brand identity.
The multisensory brand management is particular interesting because it uses sound branding as a tool to elicit specific brand associations (Schubert 1996, Ramsgaard & Winther et al. (in press)), emotional responses (Middlestadt et al. 1994) and brand perception and -attitude formation (Hung 2001, Zander 2006) to strengthen the brand identity and build brand equity.
To sum up, there is a difference between sound branding and music marketing; a company can be involved in music as a tactical way of building the brand through secondary associations, without having a corporate sound brand identity. Conversely, a sound identity can be established without using music in marketing.
// Julie Winther