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Does your Brand have a Voice? The pop of a champagne bottle signals celebration. A steak on a sizzler makes you salivate. In the 70’s, the Big B’s baritone was a symbol of his ‘angry young man’ persona. The sweet sound of a leather ball on bat, conjures images of a trademark Tendulkar drive. The cacophony of ‘patakas’ heralds the arrival of Diwali. The ringing of bells connotes prayer. In our lives sound has meaning. More importantly sound creates moods, feelings and emotions. In the world of brands too, sound can become a potent weapon for creating greater consumer engagement. Sensory Branding is the new mantra and sound is one of the 5-senses that can be used to heighten the brand’s experience. We speak of a brand look and feel, we emphasize on a brand style and attitude. Well, how about a Brand Voice? Brands have regularly used sound in their communication, but primarily to aid recall through the use of audio mnemonics or evocative signature music. The classical Titan sound track or the Britannia ‘ting-ting-tiding’ have made us remember these brands with Pavlovian conditioning. However, in this age of creating powerful sensory connections, brands must deploy sound to go beyond just aiding recall. Sound now needs to evoke feelings and emotions around the brand. After all, the senses are the portals to our emotions. Like, the distinctive sound of a Harley engine means freedom and adventure to its riders. Next, we must look at using sound not as an advertising device alone, but build it into the overall brand experience. Who can forget David Ogilvy’s legendary line for Rolls Royce, “At 60 miles per hour, the only sound you hear is the ticking of the clock.” That’s silence as a sound, if you like. Let’s take a look at some brands that have used sound imaginatively to create great emotional connections and in the process have created a Brand Voice. Brahma Beer: the iconic Brazilian beer brand used and owned the ‘tssss’ sound of the cap coming of the bottle. Beer drinkers started mouthing ‘tssss’ to be served a chilled Brahma beer at bars. Kellog’s: built their Rice Krispies around the magic of ‘snap-crackle-pop’ which was embedded in the product and caught the imagination of kids around the world. The moment the Rice Krispies are added to milk they emit a sequence of sounds that go ‘snap-crackle-pop’- embodied in 3 brand mascots of the same names. In fact, Kellog’s commissions consumer studies to explore the relationship between crunch and taste for their cereals business.


Kingfisher: closer home Kingfisher- the king of good times, has made its jingle go beyond a nice piece of music, to actually evoke the brand’s values of fun, enjoyment and flamboyance. The reggae style ‘oo-lala-la-ley-o’ transports you into the beaches of the Caribbean (or Goa) with a chilled beer in hand. Nokia: a rather clever use of the ubiquitous ring tone. The signature ring tone has become a calling card for the brand. Imagine, out of the 400 million handsets that Nokia has sold, almost 20% users retain the default ring tone. That makes it 20 million consumers whose phone always rings with the Nokia ring tone. Assuming an average number of 11 rings per day at 9 seconds per ring, it works out to 10 hours per year into 20 million phones! Now that’s a huge amount of unpaid advertising. Kit Kat: the crackling sound of the breaking of the Kit Kat fingers is an intrinsic part of the ritual of eating the chocolate. The crackle is synonymous with the brand idea of ‘having a break’. INTEL: how does a chip sound? Ask INTEL. The semi-conductor giant has invested in the ‘wave sound’ as an intrinsic part of its branding. Every time you hear the wave, you think of the power of the INTEL processor. This further demonstrates that if used well, sound can make brands stand out in a visually cluttered world. Perhaps, in addition to the growing breed of graphic designers who create the brand look, we need a new animal: the ‘sound designer’, who can give the brand a voice.

Anand Narasimha, is Dean & Professor of Marketing at IFIM Business School, Bangalore. With over 25 years of experience in Brand Marketing, Advertising and Consulting, he describes himself as a ‘Brand Mentor’. He can be reached at anand.n@ifimbschool.com

October 2011.


Does your brand have a voice