I had the privilege of attending the inaugural AT&T Business Summit. The goal of The Summit, according to Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO of AT&T Business was: “to inspire an audience to think differently about how technology is going to transform industries, organizations and even the world.”

I attended in two capacities: As part of Man Made Music, creators of the AT&T sonic identity and responsible for all of the branded and curated music played throughout The Summit (excluding, of course, the epic performances of Darius Rucker and Aerosmith). I also attended as someone who leads innovation at Man Made Music, and in that capacity, I was seeking innovation inspiration, as I always do.

The A-List roster of speakers was unbelievable, yielding a variety of new information and insightful perspectives to absorb. For me innovation inspiration fell into 3 areas:

Strong Leadership

“When you are trying to enlist large groups of people in a vision, leading is not a left-brain communication. It’s about the stories you tell.”
– Meg Whitman, HP CEO

Thoughts on strong leadership came from the likes of AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan, HP CEO Meg Whitman, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, and Former President George W. Bush. Whether the references were to business or politics, topics often discussed were about treating people with respect, honoring their service and inspiring them to engage passionately. They also reference the character of a true leader… one who is truthful and humble. Someone who surrounds her/his self with talented specialists to provide deep expertise. And someone interested in hearing the truth without causing fear of repercussion.

The innovation inspiration here is that strong leadership is not about being boastful, it’s not about positioning or making false promises. In fact, leadership is quite the opposite. It’s about galvanizing people around a cause that they want to be a part of and creating opportunities for everyone achieve greatness.

Constant Transformation

“We must start inventing the future, before we have a complete picture of what it looks like.”
– Melissa Arnoldi, AT&T Communications President AT&T Technology & Operations

For a company like AT&T, this means envisioning the future of commerce and human behavior, and building the massive infrastructure to support future demand for what most people don’t know will be possible. While AT&T does this on the grandest of all possible scales, this statement should hold true for every innovation-minded person or company who wants to stay ahead.

One of the more provocative keynote sessions was presented by Gartner Research EVP Peter Sondergaard. He talked about how digital disruption will impact every industry. He says, “If your organization is not both optimizing and creating new digital business models, or new ways to engage constituents or customers … you are falling behind.” He demonstrated clearly that every business should be aggressively looking for ways to use digital technologies to Exploit New Opportunities (ex: We Work, Uber) or Capitalize on Incumbent Weaknesses (ex: Netflix, Casper). “Once digital revenues for a sector hit 20% of total revenue, incumbent players must fight to survive…No matter what industry you are in, 20% will be the point of no return.”

The innovation inspiration here is that emerging technology will enable your business to grow more efficiently, less expensively and with less human interaction. In order to survive as a business, you must invest now in digital technology to disrupt yourself, before someone else changes the trajectory of your category, displacing you and everyone who failed to transform fast enough.

Continuous Lifelong Learning

“No one who graduates college from this point forward will be set for life with what they learn.” 
– Thomas Friedman, 3 time Pulitzer Prize winning NYT Journalist & Author

A startling thought, not only for current students, but even more so for people who have been working for many years. Many speakers, including Thomas Friedman, Former President Bush, Randall Stephenson, Thaddeus Arroyo, AT&T SVP Corporate Social Responsibility & Chief Sustainability Officer Charlene Lake, and CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper, spoke about the fact that continuous learning is essential if you hope to keep pace with the needs of your employer or to evolve your career.

Also discussed was how AT&T approaches continuous learning for its 270,000+ person workforce given the constant pace of company evolution. As the need for new job types emerge and others shrink, AT&T simply and transparently helps employees know where they stand. AT&T employees have a dashboard where they can see up or down arrows indicating whether or not the need for their skills are growing or declining. With this information employees can proactively take control of their career, and take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow skills in areas of high future demand at the company.

The innovation inspiration here is that personal innovation is more important than ever. People and companies will only have the best chance of thriving if they prioritize lifelong continuous learning, as no one should be comfortable that they can ride out the skills they have today until retirement. In order to be relevant and valued, you must always be thinking about what skills are needed in the years that follow. Those who prioritize continuous learning will stay ahead and lead the way.

A Summit of Innovation Inspiration

Consistently, throughout all of the keynote sessions, there was both innovation inspiration and a warning — embrace the future, embrace technology and get there first.

Anderson Cooper, one of the most popular news anchors today, whose network CNN may soon become a part of AT&T after the pending Time Warner acquisition, summed it all up perfectly when he asked, “does News Anchor have an up or down arrow?”


I’d love to hear your thoughts — comment here, on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter or kevin@manmademusic.com.

C2 is a literal circus, with a “360 Big Top” mainstage, and Cirque du Soleil as a founding partner, inspired by creative agency Sid Lee. It’s the anti-conference… conference. A cacophony of ideas and inspiration, C2 can feel like a mirror maze of surprising rooms and activities. It is an incredibly ambitious event where the lines between commerce & creativity, marketing & entertainment, learning & socializing, composers & futurists all blur together.

Aside from experiencing Joel Beckerman’s Big Top performance and fireside chat and co-leading the Man Made Music Masterclass on the emotional power of sound to drive business growth with MMM Director of Strategy Kristen Lueck — my goal for the conference was simple: to be inspired with new ideas to fuel our future work at MMM. In my role of EVP, Chief of Innovation, doing things never done before is a key part of my job description. I help us, and our clients, understand how music and sound can be used in more effective and impactful ways.

I’m an inspiration junkie. So it was both inspiring and gratifying to be at C2, not only to hear new ideas, but to also get confirmation that we’re on the right track at Man Made Music. I found that so much of what we strive for was reflected in the C2 mission that Sid Lee & C2 Chairman, Jean-François Bouchard, spoke to as he opened the conference.

Here’s a soundbite:

Business as usual is no longer possible. Commerce should be positive and transformative, but it’s not always. Business people can’t stand on the sidelines. We need to recognize that new ideas are required. The needs of business and society are/should be perfectly aligned. Together we reject the boundaries that exist between business and creativity, society and people. We need to create ecosystems. Choose collaboration over competition and to think long term.

His words immediately got me thinking about our idea of Sonic Humanism — that sound should be utilized to make people’s lives better, first and foremost. Sonic Humanism not only informs how we approach our client work, but also our passion projects. At Made Made Music it’s no secret that we have big efforts underway to help save lives in healthcare. Our primary focus is on alarm fatigue — the thousands of daily alarms on any given hospital floor make it impossible for hospital staff to keep up with or prioritize patient needs. We believe that, despite the complexities of adoption and integration, this issue can be solved with an open-sourced set of standardized Brand Navigation Sounds® that convey both meaning and urgency in the exact same way, every time, everywhere. We’ve committed to be part of the solution with an open-sourced platform in market by 2022. Joel has said, “our contribution to solving Alarm Fatigue could be the most important thing we ever do at Man Made Music.” We believe that collaborative ecosystems of businesses coming together will be stronger than acting alone, which is why we’re already working with some top hospital networks.

It’s both validating and inspiring, to see the principles of our work reflected in key themes of C2. It brings additional energy and ambition to our efforts. Conferences are meant to be fun & serious, entertaining & inspiring, and C2 is all of that. Steve Wozniak’s highly engaging fireside chat near the end of the conference was the perfect palette cleanser. His final message was one of raw emotion and humility. He advocated for following passions, not money, for being kind and generous, and to follow a simple formula for success: Happiness = Smiles – Frowns.


Kevin Perlmutter is EVP, Chief of Innovation at Man Made Music. He leads the expansion of services to deepen our ongoing commitment to creating business, brand and cultural impact. You can comment, follow him or start a conversation on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter, LinkedIn or Email.

The bar for brand experience has never been higher. Today, marketing and customer experience leaders are in pursuit of the best ways to connect with their desired audiences across an ever-increasing number of touchpoints. They are looking for distinctiveness, relevance, consistency and, most of all, effectiveness. While so much has changed, many are overlooking a powerful opportunity; and now is the time to consider new approaches to acquisition and loyalty. This paper examines the power of sonic identity — the strategic use of music and sound for brand experiences and audience connection. Not as a tactic, but as an essential aspect of a brand identity that can be scaled appropriately across communications, digital and live touchpoints. Music and sound can instantaneously trigger an emotional response, increase awareness and attribution, improve perceptions, drive consideration and build deeper connections. This paper discusses what makes sonic identity so powerful and how it can address today’s top brand challenges.

Originally published in Journal of Brand Strategy, vol. 5, no. 2, 1–8 spring 2015–16 © Henry Stewart Publications

Introduction
It is no surprise that the marketing landscape has changed — we have moved from a communication-focused world to an experience-focused world. In this world, it is no longer sufficient to tell people what to think about your brand in 30-second ads, in magazines or on bill- boards and expect to connect emotion- ally with them. Today, people are most loyal when they have great experiences with the brand, often in digital and live environments. This has created more complexity for marketers who are now attempting to orchestrate consistent, yet relevant, brand experiences across a dizzying array of touchpoints. Plus, there is a lot of performance pressure on the overall effectiveness of efforts. Meanwhile, target audiences are bombarded with more brand impressions than ever before. With so much that has dramatically changed for how audiences engage with brands, it is time for marketers to consider new approaches in the face of new challenges.

This paper is about the strategic use of music and sound, also known as sonic identity, providing detail on why it is more important now than it has been in the past, what makes it so powerful and how it can be used to improve critical business and brand performance metrics.

Increasing Complexities for Brands
At the 2015 Masters of Marketing conference, Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Chairman Bob Liodice1 summed up the challenge for marketers by saying that ‘it’s never been easier to reach consumers, and it’s never been harder to connect with them’. He went on to say, ‘…marketers are no longer getting the expected results from their advertising and promotion. Old-fashioned brand-building is becoming a relic of a bygone era…The ability to deliver on growth will depend on how well marketers can master marketing operations and shape the customer journey experience.’ Therefore, marketers must determine the most effective and efficient ways to get results that extend from communications to customer experience.

To build on this further, customer experience proficiency has increasingly become an important focus area. There is a lot of research on this topic, much of it out of Temkin Group,2 that points to the fact that customer experience improvement remains a critical focus area for many companies, with over two-thirds of large companies expected to increase their spending on customer experience year over year. This is because customer experience improvement correlates to stronger revenue performance — people buy more and recommend more.

Interestingly, emotion is a primary component of customer experience success. So much so that Temkin Group3 has declared 2016 ‘The Year of Emotion’. According to Customer Experience Transformist Bruce Temkin, ‘Our research shows that emotion is the component of customer experience that has the largest impact on loyalty, but it is also the area where companies are least adept and often seemingly ignore…In 2016, we expect to see a major jump in the number of companies that discuss, measure, and design for emotion.’

Music and Sound = Emotion
Simply stated by Leo Tolstoy, ‘Music is the shorthand of emotion.’4 We don’t need one of the greatest writers of all time to tell us what we already know in our gut. We know that music has the power to change our mood on demand, to dig up a long forgotten memory, to bring us back to a place and time and to propel us forward. Everyone has their own unique music taste, but one thing is the same for all: we react to music and sound, often instantaneously.

While there are many drivers of emotion in an experience — the quality of the product, the kindness of company representative, the ease of making a transaction or the overall aesthetic quality of the branded environment — the strategic use of music and sound is one way to increase the odds of a better experience.

When brands tap into the power of music and sound, experiences will be better and emotional connections will be stronger. It is a way to make audiences feel something positive that compels them to want to enjoy your brand over and over again. Sound is also a great way to tie together brand experiences across communications, live and digital touchpoints so that they are connected and relevant.

Importantly, sound can be used when visual branding cannot, to build awareness through attribution and guide the journey of the experience. On the flip side, sonic trash — poor sound experiences or inappropriate music — can ruin the brand experiences and turn away your desired audience. Sonic identity is an opportunity to do a better job at consistently setting the right tone for your brand, and appealing to peoples’ emotions to evoke desired feelings, behaviors and loyalty.

The Science of Music and Sound
Before sharing details on how to improve brand experiences with a sonic identity, it is important to first share some scientific details on what makes the strategic use of music and sound so powerful.

Understanding how the brain interprets information becomes more important as we consider how technology is changing the world and people. In Kit Yarrow’s Decoding the New Consumer Mind,5 she describes how ‘our brains have adapted to a new digital world, and we’re neurologically different as a result.’. This is fundamentally causing people to think faster, multi-task better, have less tolerance for ambiguity, less patience and shorter attention spans. The lesson for brand leaders and creators is that, ‘consumers increasingly rely on faster, more symbolic forms of communication’. For example, think about the reaction that you have to the swoosh sound of sent mail on an iPhone. Instantly, the sound communicates that the email was sent, and you feel a sense of completion and satisfaction.

Brain activity is described further in Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow,6 where he describes the two systems that drive the way people think and make decisions. We are ruled by System 1 — fast, intuitive and emotional. It operates impulsively, with little or no effort. As much as 95 percent of decision-making happens in the subconscious System 1. System 2, on the other hand, is slower, more deliberate and more logical. This part of the brain is called into action far less often to rationally solve complex situations that require attention and concentration. Communication-focused marketing tactics often and ineffectively appeal to System 2, asking consumers to rationally consider if the narrative put forward by a brand is true. Worse, communication-focused marketing attempts to connect with System 1, but fails to do so in a meaningful way, depriving brands of an opportunity to build deep emotional connections with their audience. To emphasize the point, Kahneman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work, quoted psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who said, ‘The emotional tail wags the rational dog’.

There is even more scientific rationale for why sound and music are such powerful tools. It relates to the speed at which we internalize and react to sound. As outlined by Dr. Seth Horowitz in The Universal Sense,7 music is fast and incredibly effective. It can literally bypass the rational part of the brain, and can be understood instinctively. ‘In less than fifty milliseconds — still six times faster than the blink of an eye — you’ve already identified the sound and where it’s coming from. In the actual time it takes for you to blink, sonic input gets directed through your auditory cortex to other parts of your brain that control memories and emotions.’

The Power of a Sonic Identity
A sonic identity can help brands harness the power of music and sound to connect more effectively. Sonic identity is a brand’s proprietary sonic voice that conveys the brand story, enhances emotional connection and builds brand attribution. It seamlessly ties together touchpoints across communications, live and digital experiences. Like a visual identity that has brand-specific elements such as a visual brand logo, a color palette, fonts, imagery styles and more, a sonic identity can have a variety of proprietary custom-created elements and guidelines to ensure an on-brand, consistent, yet flexible, presence. The sonic identity includes a combination of long-form and short-form music, from a brand anthem that sets the overall tone for a unique sonic system, to a sonic logo, which provides short-form brand attribution analogous to a visual logo. These elements are the bookends that can inform other brand-specific sounds such as those in a digital or mobile environment, to long-form, custom or curated music tracks that t the brand and specific brand touchpoints like retail stores, call centers, brand videos or live events. Music and sound are powerful tools to help brands better engage with their audience everywhere. As brands move beyond advertising and become more experience-focused, sonic has become more important than ever to drive instant brand recognition, con- vey meaning and make experiences more interactive. It is fundamentally effective and efficient, and the marketing community is catching on.

According to Landor,8 their No. 3 trend forecast for 2016 is ‘Audio Branding Will Make Waves…brands will look to take advantage of consumers’ inherent ability to identify sound, using audio branding to cut through the clutter, and increase consumer awareness while subtly relaying brand and product attributes to the consumer.’

According to the Harvard Business Review,9 ‘There’s one powerful branding tool that has been generally overlooked or perhaps undervalued by most marketers:

sound. The strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales…cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly influence people in ways marketers want.’ Stated another way, a sonic identity is uniquely able to solve new challenges that marketers are facing.

Addressing Brand Challenges
We have already discussed how the marketing landscape has changed. Communication is no longer sufficient in a world where consumers demand experiential connections with brands. In this experience-focused world, marketers still need to find a way to move the needle on essential brand metrics like awareness, consideration, favorability and loyalty. Sonic identity, done well, can efficiently and effectively improve these brand metrics while also addressing the following five important challenges:

  1. Conveying brand purpose and values

First, sonic is an effective method of conveying a brand’s purpose and values. People gravitate towards brands that stand for something, ones that have a role and contribution in the world, that go beyond what they’re selling and rally employees to exceed the expectations of customers. Music is not only emotive; it has the ability to communicate meaning in ways that can be quickly understood. When executed properly, a strategically designed piece of music can be an anthem and emotional engine to express a brand’s purpose and values, the types of products it designs or the genre of entertainment it showcases. Music can set the tone, the pace and the energy behind what you stand for.

In terms of brand performance, we know from Temkin Group10 that companies that outpace their competitors in customer experience have 50 percent more engaged employees than those with worse customer experience than their peers.

  1. Improving brand recall and sales

Second, a thoughtful sonic strategy can set the tone and guardrails for on-brand music creation and curation. Treating your brand’s sonic identity in the same way that you treat your visual identity can lead to a much more consistent and meaningful brand experience. Not only can it provide efficiency in the creation and selection of music and sound but it can also be effective in significantly improving instantaneous brand recognition and favorability.

In terms of brand performance, according to a Leicester University11 study, ‘Brands with music that fit their identity are 96% more likely to be recalled than those with non- t music or no music at all, and respondents are 24% more likely to buy a product with music that they recall, like and understand.’

  1. Connecting disparate touchpoints

Third, the strategic use of music and sound can score the brand experience seamlessly across all touchpoints. Today, brands are connecting with customers on many platforms. Consider a hotel, a pharmacy or financial institution, where a consumer can interact with a brand over the phone, through an app and in person — all within the span of a few hours. More and more, consumers expect those customer experiences to be intuitive, purposeful and cohesive. Sonic identity has the ability to consistently convey meaning and personality in both digital and live environments with well- designed Brand Navigation Sounds® and experience-enhancing music. Over time, a sonic identity can reach levels of attribution that are similar to a visual identity, enabling presence where a brand was once invisible. It can help brands be meaningful even when there is no room for visual or verbal storytelling.

In terms of brand performance, many research studies have shown that the right music can decrease perceived wait time when someone is on hold waiting to speak with a customer service representative. Also that use of the right music can increase linger time and sales in a retail store, and that certain genres of music will increase purchases of certain types of products.

  1. Enhancing experiences and engagement

Fourth, music can be a powerful tool to heighten and enhance a brand’s live experiences to better connect emotionally. Brands of all kinds are looking to connect with their audiences in experiential ways. Even brands that began online are creating brick and mortar stores, using them as an opportunity to build loyalty by connection in-person with customers. When it comes to sponsorships, it is no longer sufficient for a brand to spend millions of dollars on a sports sponsor- ship, for example, with just a logo on the building to show for it. These brands are now looking for new ways to be seen and add value by improving the experiences they are a part of. Music often plays a role in these kinds of experiences, whether it’s a stadium sponsorship, retail store or other immersive environments. By appropriately using music that is uniquely associated with the brand or — better still — weaving in elements of a recognized sonic identity, brands can increase attribution and heighten emotional engagement, as well as improve return on investment (ROI).

From a brand performance perspective, music can enhance the overall emotion within an experience; and according to Temkin Group,12 ‘Compared with customers who have negative emotional experiences, those with positive emotional experiences are more than 6 times as likely to buy more, more than 12 times as likely to recommend the company, and more than 5 times as likely to forgive the company for a mistake.’

  1. Humanizing Digital

Fifth, sonic can humanize digital touchpoints, making them more intuitive and appealing to consumers. Digital has become the way many brands communicate with customers. For all of its usefulness and efficiency, digital has the challenge of being devoid of personality and ultimately leads to an undifferentiated and seemingly uncaring experience. The strategic use of Brand Navigation Sounds® can dramatically improve a digital interaction by placing a brand’s unique identity and personality front-and-center to provide clear navigation with proprietary sounds that are simultaneously functional and emotional.

From a brand performance perspective, sound can make digital interactions not only more efficient but also more enjoyable. ‘Reaction time to sound is faster than all other senses — 22% faster than sight (146 versus 189 milliseconds). Sounds heighten the experience, evoke emotions and speed recognition.’13

Examples of Successful Sonic Identity

Client example: Creating emotional connections
At Man Made Music, we work with a non-profit health organization and have created a sonic identity that conveys their mission to inspire researchers and galvanize supporters while remaining sensitive to those who suffer from a degenerative illness. Through SonicPulse® Research — our proprietary research methodology designed specifically to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of sound and music on emotion, brand attributes and essential brand metrics — we learned that the sonic anthem was incredibly successful in expressing essential brand attributes and 77 percent of respondents believed it was appropriate for the organization. Further, 48 percent of respondents had a more favorable opinion of the organization and 55 percent were more interested in the organization. We also heard verbatim feedback such as, ‘I found the music to be exhilarating, upbeat and extremely optimistic. It gives the listener a feeling that this debilitating disease can be beaten,’ and ‘It sounds caring and compassionate. It’s optimistic but also respectful-sounding for people dealing with this disease.’ That is precisely the story we wanted to tell and the sentiment we were trying to evoke. Through moving score, we were able to reinforce the organization’s promise and, more importantly, build an emotional connection with audiences.

Client example: Driving meaning and longevity
One of our longstanding Man Made Music clients is a global technology company. Over five years ago we created their now iconic sonic identity, and have been adding further dimension to it across audiences and touchpoints ever since. In 2015, we worked with them to evolve the identity. The challenge was to evolve the sonic identity in a way that conveyed the brand’s expansion into the global markets and the entertainment space, without losing any of the existing equity and recognition. In other words, make it more relevant, but do not dramatically change it.

Our strategy was to bring the identity to life in a new context, rich with the energy of the entertainment industry, full of curiosity, excitement and innovation, and to broaden the sonic palette to have more of a multi-cultural appeal. The evolved identity proved powerful. SonicPulse® Research revealed that 43 percent of respondents had a more positive impression of the brand as a result of exposure to the sonic anthem. Fifty-one percent said they were more likely to consider the brand. From the perspective of one consumer, ‘While listening, I thought that the song was probably for [our client]. It just reminded me of the music in their ads.’ Beyond being unmistakably associated with the brand, research revealed that the music alone was able to clearly articulate the evolved brand positioning and attributes.

Client example: Setting the right context
Man Made Music recently had the opportunity to work with a new and exciting sports startup in a quickly growing market. The challenge for us was to use sonic to differentiate the brand from important competitors, while also conveying their unique brand proposition in a category full of similar music. The goal was to sound like sports, but not sound like most other sports brands, to appeal to our client’s young, mostly male demographic. Our client wanted the music to evoke the rush of game play, rather than the point of view of a spectator. When consumers stated through open-ended responses in SonicPulse® Research that ‘If the intent is to give the player a rush or thrill, this is what the music indicates to me. It’s a rush, generating excitement,’ and other similar statements, we knew we had hit the mark.

Principles of Developing a Sonic Identity
Creating a sonic identity is an important step for brands that are serious about emotionally connecting with their audience. This is not a tactical exercise nor should a sonic identity be disposable. When done well, a sonic identity will have meaning and longevity. It will also be flexible, to guide how on-brand music and sound can be used across all audiences and touchpoints. Here are three things to consider when designing sound for your brand:

  1. Be purposeful


Bringing sound into an experience starts with a plan. You must determine what you are trying to achieve, where will it be most useful and how should it sound to be brand-appropriate and culturally relevant. From experience audit to sonic strategy brief, there is a lot to consider so that the right sound and music shows up in the right way.

  1. Deepen meaning and emotional connection


A well-crafted sonic identity is designed to convey information and help people feel more emotionally drawn to the experience. Like a good movie score, the sound tells half the story. It is the emotional thread that sets the scene, builds anticipation and punctuates important moments. By then selecting the most appropriate music style, instrumentation and tempo, you can simultaneously articulate the brand story and appeal to your desired audience. Without a strategic approach to the use of music and sound, a lot of the brand storytelling and emotion-driving opportunity is lost.

  1. Take out sonic trash


The goal is not to flood the experience with sound. In fact, sound will have more impact when it is sparse.

You want just the right sounds and/or music to guide the experience, set the right mood and provide useful information. Just think about making people happy, only using music and sound that represent your brand voice, and take out the sonic trash.

Conclusion
A brand’s identity is incomplete without incorporating the strategic use of sound and music. A sonic identity can go a long way to address many of today’s top brand challenges. Ultimately it is not about creating individual tactical sounds, or picking individual tracks of music. It is about being strategic and developing the essential DNA that brings your brand voice to life through music and sound. This sets the foundation for creating the powerful emotional impact that transforms brand experiences. Another way to think about this is the way it was written in The Sonic Boom by Joel Beckerman, Founder, Composer and Producer at Man Made Music: ‘Sound, I believe, is the next frontier in business, storytelling and movements. It’s an untapped layer of opportunity… But sound hasn’t been harnessed at scale — as a tool for human connection. The people who realize this will benefit tremendously.’14

Brand Navigation Sounds® and SonicPulse® Research are registered Trademarks of Man Made Music, Inc.


Authors
Kevin Perlmutter is EVP, Chief of Innovation at Man Made Music — a strategic music and sound studio that scores brand and entertainment experiences. He leads the expansion of services that enable clients to strengthen emotional connections with their desired audiences across the brand experience. This includes the creation of SonicPulse® Research, a proprietary methodology specifically designed to assess the impact and effectiveness of music and sound. He draws from his experience as Senior Director of Brand Strategy at Interbrand, where he guided clients across the full spectrum of brand-strengthening disciplines from brand identity and portfolio architecture, to customer experience and employee engagement. Follow him or start a conversation on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter, LinkedIn or Email.

Nora Bradshaw is brand strategist and analytics expert, focused on audience insights, creating and activating brand strategy. Nora served as Senior Strategist, Experience and Innovation at Man Made Music, leveraging research and strategy to build sonic identities. previously she was a brand strategy and analytics consultant at Interbrand.

References

  1. BrandChannel (2015) ‘Why brands must rethink marketing in this age of disruption’, available
at: http://brandchannel.com/2015/10/16/ ana-2015-masters-marketing-101615/ (accessed 6th May, 2016).
  2. Temkin Group (2015) ‘15 Customer experience factoids from 2015 – Infographic’, available
at: https://experiencematters.wordpress. com/2016/02/04/15-customer-experience- factoids-from-2015-infographic/ (accessed 6th May, 2016).
(3)
  3. Temkin Group (2015) ‘11 Customer experience trends for 2016 – The year of emotion’, available at: https://experiencematters.wordpress. com/2015/12/15/11-customer-experience- trends-for-2016-the-year-of-emotion/ (accessed 6th May, 2016).
  4. Goodreads (2016) ‘Leo Tolstoy > Quotes > Quotable Quote’, available at: http://www. goodreads.com/quotes/65861-music-is-the- shorthand-of-emotion (accessed 6th May, 2015).
  5. Yarrow, Kit (2014) ‘Decoding the new consumer mind: How and why we shop and buy’, Jossey- Bass, pages 23-28.
  6. Kahneman, Daniel (2011) ‘Thinking, fast and slow’, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, various pages.
  7. Horowitz, S. (2012) ‘The universal sense: How hearing shapes the mind’, Bloomsbury, New York, various pages.
  8. Landor (2015) ‘Landor’s 2016 trends forecast’, available at: http://landor.com/thinking/ landors-2016-trends-forecast (accessed 6th May, 2016).
  9. Harvard Business Review (2014) ‘What does your brand sound like?’, available at: https://hbr .org/2014/02/what-does-your-brand-sound- like (accessed 6th May, 2016).
  10. , ref. 2 above.
  11. North,A.C.and Hargreaves,D.J.(2007) ‘How music can make your brand sing’, available at: http://www.creativematch.com/ news/feature-how-music-can-make/93560/ (accessed 6th May, 2016).
  12. , ref. 2 above.
  13. Kemp, B. J. (1973) ‘Reaction time of young and elderly subjects in relation to perceptual deprivation and signal-on versus signal-o condition’, Developmental Psychology,Vol. 8, pp. 268–272.
  14. Beckerman, J. (2014) ‘The Sonic Boom: How sound transforms the way we think feel and buy’, Houghton Mi in Harcourt, Boston, MA.

 

But we’ve got rhythm…

Every day I’m surrounded by talented musicians and tempting instruments, but if I dare to pick up that acoustic guitar in the corner of the studio, my credibility is sunk. Even at home, my daughters are much better musicians and singers than I’ll ever be. And despite my supposed at-work-cred, I described something as having a ‘chill vibe’ the other day, and they were mortified.

In my role as Chief of Innovation at Man Made Music — a strategic music and sound studio that scores brand and entertainment experiences — I operate a bit outside the core business of making music, which is probably best, and by design. In essence, my job is to see the future — to help us do things never done before. If there’s an opportunity for envisioning new ways sound can improve an experience, creating or leveraging new technology, addressing audience needs more effectively or leading research to uncover new sonic insights… call Kevin. Otherwise, I drop the mic and walk away.

The awesome thing about my evolved role is that I get to completely focus on expanding our capabilities and improving the impact and effectiveness of sound in experiences. AKA my dream job — supplemented all day by great music played through awesome speakers.

An Inspired Approach 

Inspiration about what’s possible is my rocket fuel. In my earliest conversations with Joel Beckerman, Founder, Composer & Producer at Man Made Music, he described sonic as the next frontier of brand identity and experience design. As someone who thrives on big challenges and being on the edge of a frontier, I was hooked. I love a blank whiteboard where a vision for new opportunities can unfold. For me, nothing is more inspiring than our incredibly talented band of musicians, composers, producers, strategists, developers, client experience and operations team members, who bring it every day with big ideas that become reality.

Together, we’ve evolved into an innovation culture, where a variety of investigations are always underway to expand our approach and offering. Our fundamental question is: Where can the strategic use of sound make a big difference? We look at human experiences where engagement, enjoyment or safety can be enhanced with better sound. We get under the hood of emerging technologies, anticipate evolving ways brands will connect with their audiences, and go deep on industries where sound is an under-leveraged experience component. The key to it all is that our team is obsessed (in the most positive spirit of the word) with using sound to improve experiences, and love taking on new challenges.

Innovation That Has Impact

We believe that the edge of the frontier is the best place to be. We’re living it daily, creating original music and sound for networks, shows, theaters, theme parks, stadiums, offices, retail stores, communications, events, call centers, devices, products, apps and virtual reality. To me, few things are as rewarding as hearing our work out in the world every day — and I think you’d be surprised by how much of what you hear comes from our studio. Even more exhilarating are the innovations we’re developing to increase the impact, accessibly and scalability of what we do — and we’ve been busy. Here are just a few examples…

Next-Level Intuitive™ – This is a bar we’ve set for ourselves and a reality that sound is becoming the critical, stand-alone, component of many experiences, versus being just a complementary layer. As interactions with content and brands becomes more digital, and invisible, sound becomes the primary source of brand attribution, navigation feedback and emotional energy.

SonicPulse® Research – We are perhaps the only company of our kind actively using research in our core creative process. We developed our SonicPulse® Research capability to assess the impact and effectiveness of music and sound. It helps us and our clients improve the work and make well-informed decisions, by understanding peoples’ instinctive reactions. Further, we are always collecting new insights and data points about sound’s ability to convey meaning, increase engagement and strengthen emotional connection.

MMx Sonic Software – Not only do we prototype sound and simulate environments in our studio space with an array of zoned speakers, we’ve also developed a proprietary software solution called Man Made Experience. MMx gives users the instantaneous ability to select from large collections of music tracks and sounds (as well as control lighting and other multimedia) that can be played from a single app interface or with voice activation. This enables us and our clients to activate immersive environments and soundscapes that can be easily controlled to guide moods and behaviors.

3D Audio for Virtual / Augmented Reality – For as much talk as there is about the quality of virtual reality experiences, it’s amazing how few talk about the sound quality. We’ve been partnering with EccoVR, a technology leader, to bring positional audio into virtual reality experiences, well before the capability was out of beta mode. This enables us to consistently use the most advanced technology for true 3D Audio. In our point of view, if the sound is not done well, the experience simply can’t simulate reality.

And We’re Just Getting Started

A vast opportunity exists for brands to instantaneously connect with their audiences emotionally — and set themselves apart — with the strategic use of music and sound. Combine that with new technology and brand interactions that cry for better sound, there so many ways that we are helping our clients better connect with their audiences.   It’s why leading innovation at Man Made Music remains such an incredibly inspiring challenge.

We are all fortunate, however, that no one relies on me for musical talent, because that would be a not-so-chill vibe.


Kevin Perlmutter is EVP, Chief of Innovation at Man Made Music. He leads the expansion of services to deepen our ongoing commitment to creating business, brand and cultural impact. You can comment, follow him or start a conversation on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter, LinkedIn or Email.

SonicPulse Research is a registered trademark, and Next-Level Intuitive is a trademark, of Man Made Music, Inc.

Originally published on brandchannel

Now more than ever brands are realizing the importance of using music and sound to strategically engage with their audience. Those who have caught on recognize that people are affected by sound all day long, and that it can either be used effectively to improve brand experiences…or it can ruin experiences if ignored. Man Made Music is a strategic music and sound studio that scores brand and entertainment experiences for some of the world’s most recognizable brands. It has created iconic sonic identities heard countless times each day for brands like AT&T, IMAX, Allstate, HBO, The CBS Evening News, ESPN 30 for 30 and The Super Bowl, to name a few.

brandchannel recently spoke with Kevin Perlmutter, Man Made Music’s newly appointed EVP Chief of Innovation, to hear more about his take on innovation in sonic branding.

brandchannel: Your role recently evolved from SVP Chief Strategist to EVP Chief of Innovation. What’s changed?

Kevin Perlmutter: I’ve got to say, I have the best job ever. My first innovation project began over two years ago when I was in talks to join Man Made Music from Interbrand. It was to write my own job description. So, naturally, I included all of the things I love to do—to help Man Made Music do things we’ve never done before. And that carries forward into my current role. I spend most of my time uncovering new ways that sound can improve experiences, and how brands can better connect and engage with audiences. I then imbed expanded approaches, capabilities, research and technology into the business. This evolved role is a more focused one, so we can help clients tap into the power of sound in new ways on an even larger scale.

brandchannel: Brands have been using music and sound for years. Why does a music studio need a Chief of Innovation?

Perlmutter: Unlike other areas of marketing or branding, sound is less understood in terms of its impact, which is a big missed opportunity for many CMOs who are under pressure to meet a slew of performance metrics over a dizzying array of marketing efforts. When used appropriately, music and sound can improve brand attribution, convey meaning, extend engagement and increase positive emotions, which is proven to be the biggest driver of loyalty in customer experience. My role is in part to help bring metrics of effectiveness to light, and also to uncover ways that music and sound can be used in current and emerging brand experiences, especially those that are live, digital or virtual.

brandchannel: What are some examples of innovations that you have launched at Man Made Music?

Perlmutter: I’ve been fortunate to not only have a mandate, but also the willingness of Man Made Music’s founder and lead composer, Joel Beckman, to invest in innovation. It’s enabled me to create and launch SonicPulse Research, which is our proprietary approach to assessing the impact and effectiveness of music and sound. I’ve also worked with our team to develop technology solutions for activating soundscapes that can be easily controlled to guide moods and behaviors in live environments. In addition, I’ve been fortunate to partner with EccoVR, a technology leader, to bring positional audio into virtual reality experiences well before the capability was out of beta mode, enabling us to consistently use the most advanced technology for true 3D Audio.

brandchannel: The word innovation is thrown around a lot these days. How will you live up to the role of driving innovation at Man Made Music?

Perlmutter: In my spare time I build furniture and have been doing so since I was a teenager. Early on I decided that I would buy a new tool and learn a new skill on every project. Now, I have an awesome shop full of tools and lots of woodworking skills. I’ve brought this way of thinking to Man Made Music. Ultimately, it’s about everyone feeling part of and contributing to an innovation culture. It’s about not getting too comfortable with what we’ve accomplished, and always looking to improve. It’s also about understanding the emerging ways audiences and brands interact, and uncovering how these interactions can be improved through the strategic use of sound. Lastly, it’s about prioritizing our efforts around initiatives where we can have the greatest impact.

brandchannel: What drives you and keeps you inspired?

Perlmutter: From the very beginning, Joel promised me that I would always have fun and never be bored, and so far, he’s been absolutely right. It’s the incredibly talented people I’m surrounded by every day at Man Made Music that keep me inspired. While they may say I’m good at envisioning what’s possible, mapping out the possibilities and mobilizing a team to take us to the future – it’s this awesome group of people who are more specialized and musically inclined than I am who bring it all to life. We all are also privileged to work in cutting-edge new studios that were recently built by us with experimentation and prototyping in mind.

One of my favorite quotes is from Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options—to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” I choose growth every time.


Kevin Perlmutter is EVP, Chief of Innovation at Man Made Music, a strategic music and sound studio that scores entertainment and brand experience. He leads the expansion of services to deepen our ongoing commitment to creating business, brand and cultural impact. You can comment, follow him or start a conversation on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter, and LinkedIn.

Intuitive. It’s become an overused word at this point, don’t you think?  Simply being visually intuitive is no longer enough.

It’s true, everything is expected to be more intuitive, and the more intuitive things become, the more our brains yearn for it. But, it has gone from an aspirational point of difference in experience design to a price of entry.  As everything is moving toward copy-cat forms of design, what’s next? How will brand experiences be desirable and distinct?

I suggest that there is a new plateau to reach in experience design. Next-Level Intuitive. It’s time to tap into the power of sound.

Next-Level Intuitive means using sound to create more instinctive and brand-differentiating experiences.

Our lives are now hyper-connected with an increasing amount of tapping, swiping, automated voices and interface-less digital experiences infiltrating our daily routines. Brands are working hard to create these distinct experiences, but over time it’s all starting to blend together as tactile differences and space for visual identification minimizes. Let’s face it… our attention-deficit, split-second decision, experience-hopping world, is putting increasing pressure on instantaneous brand performance. And those experiences we connect with emotionally are the ones we’ll keep coming back to.

Backed by behavioral psychology and neuroscience, sound can go a long way to improve how brands connect and engage with people successfully.

Understanding Subconscious Decision Making

“Our brains have adapted to a new digital world, and we’re neurologically different as a result… we think faster, multi-task better, have less tolerance for ambiguity, less patience and shorter attention spans.  We increasingly rely on faster more symbolic forms of communication, according to Kit Yarrow, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind.”

By tapping into a bit of science, marketers and brand experience designers can create more effective ways to connect with desired audiences.  An understanding of how split-second decisions are being made and what has the power to spark emotions can ultimately lead to more successful brand experiences.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make decisions. We are ruled by System 1 — fast, intuitive and emotional. It operates impulsively, with little or no effort. System 2 — slower, more deliberate, more logical — is called into action far less often to rationally solve complex situations that require attention and concentration. As much as 95% of decision-making happens in the subconscious System 1.

Now it starts to make more sense. As technology fuels our ability to move quickly through life, scrolling our way through information at a blistering pace, decisions that used to be controlled by System 2 (like ‘who do I want to go out with?’ or ‘which product should I buy?’) are now influenced more and more by our subconscious, emotionally-guided, System 1.

To emphasize the point, Kahneman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work, quoted psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who said, “The emotional tail wags the rational dog.”

The brand community is catching on. 2016 has been declared “The Year of Emotion” as this year’s theme overarching the Temkin Group’s Top 11 Customer Experience Trends for 2016.  Temkin says, “Our research shows that emotion is the component of customer experience that has the largest impact on loyalty, but it is also the area where companies are least adept and often seemingly ignore… In 2016, we expect to see a major jump in the number of companies that discuss, measure, and design for emotion.”

Connecting Emotionally with Sound & Music

We must do a better job at appealing to people’s subconscious to trigger emotions and evoke desired behaviors. Bob Liodice, at the 2015 Association of National Advertiser’s conference, said “…marketers are no longer getting the expected results from their advertising and promotion. Old-fashioned brand-building is becoming a relic of a bygone era.”

In Landor’s 2016 trend forecast, #3 is that “Audio Branding Will Make Waves …brands will look to take advantage of consumers’ inherent ability to identify sound, using audio branding to cut through the clutter, and increase consumer awareness while subtly relaying brand and product attributes to the consumer.”

As we’ve moved from a communications-focused world to an experience-focused world, the strategic use of sound is the missing ingredient to drive instant brand recognition, convey meaning and make experiences more interactive. It’s fundamentally effective and efficient. It’s a way to be distinct. And it sparks emotional connection.

Simply stated by Leo Tolstoy, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” But we don’t need one of the greatest writers of all time to tell us what we already know in our gut. We know that music has the power to change our mood on demand, to dig up a long forgotten memory, to bring us back to a place and time, and to propel us forward. Everyone has their own unique music taste, but one thing is the same for all: music makes us feel something, instantaneously.

Again, the neurological and behavioral science behind this is compelling. We know that music and sound travel through the brain, bypassing the rational areas and shooting directly into the emotional areas. From The Universal Sense by Seth Horowitz, PHD, “In less than fifty milliseconds—still six times faster than the blink of an eye—you’ve already identified the sound and where it’s coming from. In the actual time it takes for you to blink, sonic input gets directed through your auditory cortex to other parts of your brain that control memories and emotions.”

Next-Level Intuitive Sound in our Lives

Think about the instantaneous impact that branded audio has on you. When you’re in the kitchen, you recognize a commercial or a show as soon as the music starts. You get alerts on your phone that instantly convey information. When you’re on hold or in a retail store, the right music improves the experience whether you realize it or not, and the wrong music is disturbing. You start up your Mac to its distinctive and refreshing power up sound. The list goes on.

Here are just a few examples of emerging every day experiences where Next-Level Intuitive uses of sound will help make brand experiences more meaningful, instinctive and differentiating.

Streaming Entertainment:  The world of content delivery is going through a major overhaul. Content distributors are becoming creators. Content creators are becoming distributors. Cable TV bundles are unbundling. The choices are exponentially expanding. And re-bundling will begin to sort out the confusion. Next-Level Intuitive, with the strategic use of sound will make aggregated entertainment platforms more desirable to navigate and provide brand-differentiating distinction for both distributors and original content.

Home Security & Automation:  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to ditch my analog home security system for a more comprehensive set up like Nest, Blink or (wait for it) Apple Home Kit. The price of entry for my consideration is intuitive. But Next-Level Intuitive will ultimately win the day. I want the system that is instinctive to use, with sounds and automated voice that don’t just alarm me, but welcome me home, provide alerts that correspond to the situation and give me audible assurance the doors are locked and that alarm is on.

Personal Healthcare:  Going to the doctor is beginning to change. In fact, for many people and certain ailments, it will soon be a virtual experience. One where you can have a video consult with a doctor, stream vital statistics, get a diagnosis and a prescription order, all from your home or office. However, it will take Next-Level Intuitive with experience-appropriate sounds to signify connection, confirmation and important alerts for people to truly get comfortable transitioning from the live doctor’s office to a humanized online healthcare experience.

Retail:  Retail will increasingly become more omni-channel, with the seamless integration of physical spaces and digital stores. There will be new forms of digital signage and emerging ways to try before you buy, like augmented and virtual reality. The common thread that will distinctively weave together all of a brand’s retail touchpoints… the thing that will make it Next-Level Intuitive, is sound.

Tap into the Power of Music and Sound

The time is now for Next-Level Intuitive with the strategic use of sound in brand experiences. It can be brand differentiating. It has tremendous power to reach our subconscious. It can instantly and simultaneously connect with memories and emotions. And it can take brands experiences to the next level.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – comment here, on twitter @KevinPerlmutter or kevin@manmademusic.com.  And if you’d like to hear branded audio that you may instantly recognize, check out Man Made Music.

Originally published on PSFK as part of The Future of Advertising op-ed section on April 29, 2016.


Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music.
If you would like to share your perspective, please comment or start a conversation on Twitter @kevinperlmutter or in email: kevin@manmademusic.com.

I’m fascinated by Tinder. 1.4 billion swipes per day. Talk about tapping a market. I can’t help but think about how Tinder works, the odds of a connection, and how often it leads to amazing experiences. And while I’m way too happily married to ever consider using Tinder, I am curious. And it got me thinking.

Is Tinder, perhaps, a microcosm of the relationship between brands and consumers today? A barrage of thoughtfully prepared content vying for our attention and a high rate of rejection.

Tinder relies on you making decisions about your interest in someone based on an instantaneous first impression. The goal is to get someone’s attention by disrupting the stream of photos he or she is swiping though, in the hope that you both swipe right. Less than 2% of swipes lead to a match, fewer meet ups, and even fewer love connections.

One article about the psychology of Tinder had a quote referring to it as “the manifestation of our cultural obsession with appearance and attention deficits”. At the Masters of Marketing conference, ANA Chairman Bob Liodice summed up the challenge for marketers by saying that “its never been easier to reach consumers, and its never been harder to connect with them.”

Understanding Subconscious Decision Making
So, in effect, it’s a classic dating conundrum for brands. Despite all the effort to break through by marketers and brand experience designers, our attention-deficit, split-second decision, experience-hopping world, is putting a lot of pressure on brand performance.
 
How can brands increase the odds of getting their desired audiences to “swipe right”?
 
I propose that it requires a deeper understanding of how split-second decisions are being made, and the use of more effective ways to connect with people at a subconscious level. More on this later, but you may be surprised to hear that the strategic use of music and sound can be an effective solution.
 
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make decisions. We are ruled by System 1 — fast, intuitive and emotional. It operates impulsively, with little or no effort. System 2 — slower, more deliberate, more logical — is called into action far less often to rationally solve complex situations that require attention and concentration. As much as 95% of decision-making happens in the subconscious System 1.
 
Now it starts to make more sense. As technology fuels our ability to move quickly through life, scrolling our way through information at a blistering pace, decisions that used to be controlled by System 2 (like ‘who do I want to go out with?’ or ‘which product should I buy?’) are now influenced more and more by our subconscious, emotionally-guided, System 1.
 
“The emotional tail wags the rational dog,” according to Kahneman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work.
 
The brand community is catching on. 2016 has been declared “The Year of Emotion” by Bruce Temkin, former Forrester analyst who leads the customer experience firm Temkin Group. He says, “Our research shows that emotion is the component of customer experience that has the largest impact on loyalty, but it is also the area where companies are least adept and often seemingly ignore… In 2016, we expect to see a major jump in the number of companies that discuss, measure, and design for emotion.”
 
Connecting Emotionally with Sound & Music
We must do a better job at appealing to peoples’ subconscious to trigger emotions and evoke desired behaviors. Bob Liodice went on to say “…marketers are no longer getting the expected results from their advertising and promotion. Old-fashioned brand-building is becoming a relic of a bygone era.”

As we’ve moved from a communications-focused world to an experience-focused world, the strategic use of sound is becoming a more essential ingredient to drive instant brand recognition, convey meaning and make experiences more interactive. It’s fundamentally effective and efficient. It’s a way to be distinct. And it sparks emotional connection.
 
Simply stated by Leo Tolstoy, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” But we don’t need one of the greatest writers of all time to tell us what we already know in our gut. We know that music has the power to change our mood on demand, to dig up a long forgotten memory, to bring us back to a place and time, and to propel us forward. Everyone has their own unique music taste, but one thing is the same for all: music makes us feel something, instantaneously.
 
My former colleague, Andy Payne, Global Chief Creative Officer at Interbrand, said, “Music is possibly one of the most underused and yet most powerful forces at our disposal.”  And Landor’s #3 trend forecast for 2016 is that “Audio Branding Will Make Waves …brands will look to take advantage of consumers’ inherent ability to identify sound, using audio branding to cut through the clutter, and increase consumer awareness while subtly relaying brand and product attributes to the consumer.”

The neurological and behavioral science behind this is compelling. We know that music and sound travel through the brain, bypassing the rational areas and shooting directly into the emotional areas. We know that reaction time to sound is faster than reaction time to any other sense – people react to sound 22% faster than they react to visuals. We know from research that “Brands with music that fit their brand identity are 96% more likely to be recalled than those with non-fit music or no music at all.”
 
Think about the instantaneous impact that branded audio has on you. When you’re in the kitchen, you recognize a commercial or a show as soon as the music starts. You get alerts on your phone that instantly convey information. When you’re on hold or in a retail store, the right music improves the experience whether you realize it or not, and the wrong music is disturbing. You start up your Mac to its distinctive and refreshing power up sound. The list goes on.

Swipe Right for Music and Sound
The time is now for the strategic use of music and sound in brand experiences. It has tremendous power to reach our subconscious. It can instantly and simultaneously convey brand attribution and meaning. It can trigger memories and emotions. All faster than you blink your eye.
 
Maya Angelou may have said it best, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”


Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music.
If you would like to share your perspective, please comment or start a conversation on Twitter @kevinperlmutter or in email: kevin@manmademusic.com.

What are the best ways to ignite peoples’ senses in branded spaces?

That’s the question that we — Carey and George Bradshaw, Co-Founders of Creative Butter, and Kevin Perlmutter, SVP Chief Strategist of Man Made Music, — asked ourselves.

After being connected for our like-mindedness by a common friend at the MIT Media Lab, our discussion began with the recognition that our respective disciplines, visual, content and sonic, are all vital in the holistic design of branded spaces. So we decided to bring our perspectives together and write about best practices for creating immersive, branded experiences people love.

Turning Branded Spaces into Immersive Environments

In our experience-focused world, brands can have an outsized impact in retail stores, tradeshow booths, interactive museums, sponsored stadium venues and more. To be successful, interior design must go beyond finishes, signage and propping, into holistic experience design. That means understanding how to reach people on a truly emotional level.

Igniting all of the senses in a positive way is at the center of high-quality experience design. Whether competing for attention amidst the noise of a tradeshow or creating a thoughtful and narrative experience for museum-goers, the goal of achieving the desired sensorial impact must be taken into consideration.

We believe that there are three interconnected areas to focus on:

  1. Story: A great brand experience tells a compelling story. It is imperative to draw people in, intrigue them and guide their experience so that they walk away with your core message imprinted in their mind in a positive way. Remember—it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. And it’s not about what you want people to know, it’s about how you want them to feel.
  1. Design: Experiential design starts with designing the experience. Consider the story and the journey you want people to have and understand how you will appeal to them both rationally and sensorially. It’s not about a sensory overload, but being very purposeful at each moment to engage, guide and excite.
  1. Emotion: Sound, music and color are the emotional engine for a branded space. They have the power to heighten emotions and connect with people viscerally — before, during and after the interaction. Sound welcomes them, draws them in and carries them through. Like a movie score, it builds anticipation and punctuates what people should take away and how they should feel. Color conveys psychological messages and meanings. Moreover, form, composition and tonality work together in both sound and design to elicit emotional responses and prompt intended interactions. For space ‘owners’ the experience can be richer and more meaningful, and for brand ‘sponsors,’ attribution can be seamlessly and appropriately woven into the environment.

The ROI of Getting It Right

Today, brand managers have an overwhelming number of options on how to reach their audiences and where they will get the greatest return on their investments. While it’s impossible in the context of this article to weigh all of the choices, here some ways to get the best ROI in branded environments:

  • A great branded environment fuels discovery and intrigue. The participant is gently and imperceptibly guided through the curated experience. This branded environment has a great story to tell, complete with compelling design that ignites all of the senses.
  • A great branded environment connects with people emotionally and appeals to the participants’ sense of awe. It incites visceral reactions where they instantly feel something positive, which directly relates back to the brand.
  • A great branded environment pays for itself. It makes participants crave more and gives them something amazing to share and talk about. When done right, it transforms passers-by into participants and then into customers and finally into brand advocates. There is no greater ROI than loyal customers who tout your brand to their networks…free of charge.

Tying it All Together

Branded spaces require a significant investment in expertise, time and square-footage, which is why it’s so important to be holistic and strategic in your approach to designing them. By taking the time to tell a cohesive story through thoughtful design, messaging and use of sound, brands can take advantage of a unique opportunity to forge deep emotional connections with consumers, turning them into long-term brand advocates.

Image via Flickr / jimsideas


Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music.
If you would like to share your perspective, please comment or start a conversation on Twitter @kevinperlmutter or in email: kevin@manmademusic.com.

Sound has tremendous impact on us, whether we consciously recognize it or not. It can pique our interest and it can drive us nuts.

I’ve become increasingly aware of sound, since becoming chief strategist of a strategic music company. It’s given me more appreciation for good sonic experiences, but on the downside I get more annoyed by sonic trash. Let’s just say that I’ve become somewhat fixated on how to make life better with sound.

Good Vibrations
There’s one great quote that I keep coming back to: “Music not only can change your mood it can alter the way you perceive the world.”

Lately I’ve been living this out in my daily life. I’m creating and seeking out experiences where sound and music sets the right vibe. During my over-crowded, typically-standing-on-the-train commute home, I slip into my own world and thoughts by listening to music—drowning out the cacophony of noise and lack of personal space around me. At work, I have the luxury of good speakers. Combine that with being in the office incredibly early, Spotify, and a jolt of caffeine, and I’m discovering different music every morning to inspire my best thinking.

I’ve also taken to a “love-it or leave-it” approach to everyday experiences. I’m always happy to hear the voice of my Google Maps app with all of her charm, directional accuracy and occasional adorable mispronunciation. I find that the HBO’s feature presentation opening music on HBO is a great palate cleanser to focus my anticipation on what I’m about to watch. I was pleasantly surprised by the stress-minimizing and helpful automated voice persona when I called Amtrak to reschedule a trip. And it’s always great to walk into a retail store where the overhead music makes me want to stay longer and buy more. These soundscapes improve my experiences and I feel more emotionally connected to the brands that make them possible.

On the other hand, I’ve reduced my time at Starbucks because they’ve universally raised the volume level, making it hard to think. There’s a new Mexican restaurant in my home town, where the food is delicious, but I had to ask which days the mariachi band is playing. Great music—but way too loud for the small space, making it hard for my family to talk across the table on those days. I turn off the volume when on the Facebook app because the sounds are more intrusive than pleasing. I shudder at the sound of my microwave badgering me that something is done. And if you want a good laugh, check YouTube for videos about the ill-fated Sun Chips bag, that for all of its good intentions was replaced after 18 months with a corresponding 11% drop in sales.

Rising Above the Noise
For decades, brands have been striving to create an emotional connection with audiences. What if more marketers and experience designers tapped into the power of sound? Sonic identity is an opportunity to make people’s lives better. All it takes is a commitment and a plan to make people happier.

It’s why the importance of sonic identity as an experience differentiator is not just a phase. In fact, momentum toward a focus on sound is getting stronger, especially as live and digital experiences are becoming more central to holistic brand experiences. In a prior article I wrote about the impact on brand identity as we’ve moved from a Communications-Focused world to an Experience-Focused world. Using the visual below, I put forth that sonic identity becomes more essential because it goes beyond visual which is a one-way identification tool. Sonic identity is an experience tool because it enables a two-way information exchange and it conveys personality and inflection.

Capabilities_MASTER_Updated032715_NewVisualVerbalSonic.pptx

Since sound is the shortcut to emotional connection, it’s important to ensure that the visceral response it elicits is what you were striving for. Here are three things to consider when designing sound for an experience.

1. Be Purposeful: Bringing sound into an experience starts with a plan. You must determine what you’re trying to achieve, where will it be most useful and how should it should sound to be brand-appropriate and culturally relevant. From experience audit to sonic strategy brief, there’s a lot to consider so that the right sound and music shows up in the right way.

2. Deepen Meaning and Emotional Connection: A well-crafted sonic identity is designed to convey information and help people feel more emotionally drawn to the experience. Like a good movie score, the sound tells half the story. It is the emotional thread that sets the scene, builds anticipation and punctuates key moments. Without sound, a lot of the storytelling and emotion-driving opportunity is lost.

3. Take Out Sonic Trash: The goal is not to flood the experience with sound. In fact, sound will have more impact when it is sparse. You want just the right sounds and/or music to guide the experience, to set the right mood and to provide useful information. Just think about making people happy and take out the sonic trash.

Next-Level Intuitive
Recently, I was thinking about the prefer-not-to-live-without brand experiences in my life. Some have great sound and some are silent but rest assured, none have bad sound. I’m talking about my Swiss army knife of daily enablers: my iPhone, the Starbucks app, Spotify, Evernote, The Weather Channel app, Uber, Google Maps, TiVo, Amazon and my Garmin GPS running watch. They all have one thing in common that has been the gold standard of experience design for several years. They are intuitive.

Intuitive. It’s become an overused word at this point, don’t you think? Intuitive has gone from aspirational in experience design to a price of entry. It’s true, everything needs to be more intuitive. But now, the more intuitive things become, the more our brains yearn for it. In fact, according to Kit Yarrow, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, our short attention spans are craving more intuitive forms of communication because we just don’t have the patience for anything less.

So, once everything is intuitive, what’s next? How will experiences be distinct? I suggest that there is a new plateau to reach in experience design. Next-Level Intuitive.

Next-Level Intuitive is creating more instinctive interactions
and brand-differentiating experiences with sound.

Our lives are now hyper-connected with an increasing amount of tapping, swiping, automated voices and interface-less digital experiences infiltrating our daily routines. Brands work to hard create these distinct experiences, but over time all are all starting to blend together as tactile differences and space for visual identification minimizes. In our Experience-Focused world, sound can be a primary experience differentiator.

Sounding Off
Good sound makes life better. It’s the shortcut to emotion. It instantly moves through our brains to impact how we feel and elicit instinctive reactions. Marketers and experience designers have a big opportunity to tap into the power of sound to create Next-Level Intuitive experiences—experiences that people feel connected to and that make their lives better. In my view, a well-designed experience without specific consideration for seamlessly integrating sound is not a well-designed experience.

Another way to think about this is the way it was written in The Sonic Boom by Joel Beckerman, author, and founder/lead composer of Man Made Music: “Sound, I believe, is the next frontier in business, storytelling and movements. It’s an untapped layer of opportunity… But sound hasn’t been harnessed at scale—as a tool for human connection. The people who realize this will benefit tremendously.”

Photo: Mickey Alexander


Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music.
If you would like to share your perspective, please comment or start a conversation on Twitter @kevinperlmutter or in email: kevin@manmademusic.com.

I can’t play a note. I can’t keep a beat. While after-work karaoke was fun at my last job, it’s a bad career move for me now where I’m chief strategist of a music company, surrounded by amazing musicians.

When I joined Interbrand in 2007 from a career at ad agencies, it was because I recognized that an industrywide shift was underway and knew advertising wasn’t the only answer clients needed. I wanted to learn new skills and be a part of the next frontier of brand engagement. Beyond my wildest expectations, I learned and innovated across a wide range of skill sets – from company vision to brand strategy, from portfolio architecture to employee engagement, and from visual and verbal identity to customer experience.

So why then, did I walk away after seven years to join Man Made Music – a much smaller company that focuses only on sonic identity?

Fact is, I was inspired by my early discussions with Joel Beckerman, Man Made Music’s Founder and Lead Composer. He said, “Sonic is the next frontier of brand identity”. I was intrigued and I took some time to investigate.

I read in the Harvard Business Review, “There’s one powerful branding tool that has been generally overlooked or perhaps undervalued by most marketers: sound… cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly influence people in ways marketers want.”

I explored research studies that demonstrate how the right use of music can increase linger time and sales in a retail store, and how certain genres of music will increase purchases of certain types of products. And other studies proving that the right use of music will increase people’s tolerance of a call center and reduce perceived wait time. Further, how music can be used to commercial benefit by projecting corporate style and values, or to corporate detriment with the wrong music.

I learned about the science of sound. The way it bypasses the rational part of your brain, and how it is more instinctive. The Universal Sense, by Seth Horowitz, PhD says “in less than fifty milliseconds—still six times faster than the blink of an eye—you’ve already identified the sound and where it’s coming from. In the actual time it takes for you to blink, sonic input gets directed through your auditory cortex to other parts of your brain that control memories and emotions.”

Then I thought about how technology is changing the world and people. In reading Kit Yarrow’s Decoding the New Consumer Mind the following caught my attention, “our brains have adapted to a new digital world, and we’re neurologically different as a result.” This is fundamentally causing people to think faster, multi-task better, have less tolerance for ambiguity, less patience and shorter attention spans. The lesson for brand leaders and creators is that, “consumers increasingly rely on faster more symbolic forms of communication.”

Sound Makes or Breaks the Experience

I started to think about this new information in the context of my Interbrand identity and customer experience work, and also related it to personal experiences.

For example, I had recently visited a chain drugstore that stands for healthy living. I remember entering the vestibule and immediately a piercing door chime reverberated in the small space. There was overhead music that seemed like the wrong genre for 7:30 a.m. I arrived at the bank of self-serve checkout machines to hear that each one had an automated voice that was more mechanical than human, and each was saying the same thing, but, unfortunately, not at the same time. As I left the store, setting off that piercing noise, again, my head was spinning and I felt less healthy than when I entered.

That drug store brand has a well-executed brand vision. They align themselves with healthy living and that’s reflected in how they look, what they say, and the products they sell and don’t sell. It’s clear, however, they had not thought about sound, and the experience was ruined as a result. What if they played overhead music that reflected their brand and the time of day? What if they had a door chime that was welcoming? What if they had automated voices in the self-serve checkout area that were not only less mechanical, but electronically choreographed and provided directionally-focused sound? And what if the identity-rooted sound of this brand was present and familiar across all locations and digital interactions?

Sound is competing for our attention all of the time. We’ve become numb to a lot of the noise and some of it causes anxiety and displeasure. My mind wanders to the incredibly annoying sound my microwave makes repeatedly when something is done. On the flip side, I use music every day to complement or change my mood, and I pick playlists that are meant to accelerate getting me to how I want to feel.

Time to Face the Music

Then it hit me. For as long as anyone can remember, we’ve been talking about creating an emotional connection with our audiences. Finally, we’ve moved from a communication-focused world to an experience-focused world, and with the right music and sound, we now have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen that connection.

Despite all of the research about how sound impacts us, and massive changes in our behavior brought on by technology, many of us are still relying on the same brand identity pillars – visual and verbal – that have been in place for decades.

The big ah-ha for me was that the strategic use of music and sound is missing from most brand experiences, especially in spaces and on devices where brands have new challenges to connect and engage successfully.

Sound is the Shortcut to Emotional Connection

The fact is, sonic identity is no longer just a “nice to have”, and after joining Man Made, I developed this simple graphic to explain why.

Capabilities_MASTER_Updated032715_NewVisualVerbalSonic.pptx

A sonic identity, like a visual identity, brings brand attribution and a sense of personality. Sonic, however, is more emotive, instinctive and interactive than visual. In experiences, tempo and instruments are more powerful than fonts and color. The right music can forge greater connection at live events or in spaces, and it can efficiently convey a brand’s story and its values. The right set of sounds can also humanize digital interactions. Sound can be more responsive than static iconography during key experience moments and can be used to facilitate two-way dialogue that is both functional and emotional. A sonic identity can ensure that comforting human qualities like inflection and tone are not lost. And sound can travel where visuals can’t go.

Taking on The Next Frontier of Brand Identity

I joined Man Made Music because I’m most inspired when I’m challenged to innovate, to simplify complexity and to introduce my clients to more effective ideas and approaches.

I thought of the power that brands can tap into when they use sound and music strategically to evoke emotion, create meaningful connections with people and guide them through experiences. I recognized how much more important music and sound are as brand experiences become more multi-platform and omni-channel, how technology is enabling brands to show up in new ways and new places, and how our brains are more in need of intuitive ways to engage and connect.

Most of all, I thought about how this is new information for many brand leaders, how the doors of this opportunity are just starting to open, and how much I enjoy being a guide through new frontiers.

All of that has me facing the music.

If you would like to share your perspective, I’d love to hear from you.

Sources:
1. Decoding the New Consumer Mind
2. HBR “What does your brand sound like”
3. PRS The Value of Music Music and On-Hold Waiting Time
4. PRS Benefits of Using Music for Your Business
5. The Universal Sense
6. Music Alters Visual Perception Research


Kevin Perlmutter is SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music.
Share your perspective with him on Twitter @kevinperlmutter, or in email: kevin@manmademusic.com.