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  • Michael Spencer

Soundings: sound affects, but will Sound Business

By Ronna Porter

** Accessible

*** Inspiring

**** Practical

***** Relevant (to Audio Branding)

** Well-grounded

It will be interesting to see how many such explorations into the sensory aspects of branding will follow the 2005 publication of Martin Lindstrom’s BRAND sense (itself a `must read!’). There are few books that focus on the commercial application of the assertion that `sound affects,’ particularly written for those charged with integrating sound and music into their business strategy, branding, marketing, and communications. So Julian Treasure’s contribution with Sound Business is a welcome one, indeed Lindstrom endorses it as “A great exploration of the science of sound, and the experiential potency it has for building powerful brands.”

First the bad news. Sadly, the potentially inspiring ideas in Sound Business are undermined by the too-many-to-be-reliable factual inaccuracies and inadequately verified theories in the first three-quarters of the book. Treasure also gets caught up in the language and excitement of the tools of the trade and his own intriguing set of brand names, which at best is a distraction to shared understanding, and at worst impenetrable. Like Lindstrom, my interests (and to date limitations to us both) are in broader business and brand strategy with a fascination for bringing brands to life. Working daily with experts in this field, I’m more convinced than ever of the rewards and risks of audio branding, and the need for shareable, generally applicable language and methodologies, based upon reliable data. Not to mention the little bit of magic that music brings.

That said, Treasure’s strength is in his practical review of the many marketing and physical spaces in which `intentional sound’ plays its part in supporting business goals and human relationships, and `noise’ or unintentional sound gets in the way of them. He advises that every organisation should have comprehensive audio brand guidelines, detailing its intentional sound including its voice, brand music, sonic logos, advertising sound, product sound (as an asset or a liability), plus shops, offices and all manner of spaces in which we live, work, buy, and take our leisure. A large section is given to the telephone, customer-friendly automation, and the call centre, and many a consumer and business executive will be aware of the many issues here.

Given the continuing fragmentation of media, the high penetration of low cost technologies, such as the web, mobile devices, and interactive TV to name but a few, the lack of attention given to these channels is surprising. I beleive this is a key area where consumer behaviour, attitudes and expectations are changing at breakneck speed, and companies are searching for ways to create ever more richly-imbued, emotive, and personally meaningful brands as they strive to be distinctive and reinforce relationships of loyalty and trust.

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