101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
FMR. Head of Marketing & Brand Communications at Swisscom
“I believe that not being the loudest is a very powerful
tool to stand out.”
Achill Prakash, fmr. Head of Marketing & Brand Communications, Swisscom
Swisscoms` Head of Marketing and Brand Communications, Achill Prakash, has developed an extensive understanding of marketing due to his work in various fields. He has worked in companies from New York, over Zurich, to Berlin and London, what made him an expert in understanding different cultures, people and the importance of individual experiences. At Swisscom, he now is challenging the status quo of telecommunications.In his interview with Uli, he explains why intangible brands need to take care of their sound identity more than ever and how even one single person can make an impact.
Reese: Recently at the Cannes Lions we saw HSBC’s, Visas and Mastercard’s Sonic Brandings on the main stages. Why is that becoming more and more important? Who is that awakening giant?
Prakash: Sometimes brands are simple copy cats. They want something because another brand has created something fancy. “Did you see what Mastercard has been doing? They have reinvented sound!” You get into these conversations and develop a sense of urgency because you want to have it too. I think that`s one part which has nothing to do with sound as a strategic asset, but as something, you want to have because others have it. On the other hand, sound can be existentially important. At Swisscom we are selling a totally intangible product and create virtual experiences. So, a strong sonic identity is definitely one way of touching our customer’s hearts and senses.
Reese: At Unilever, there is now one dedicated person of each brand, in every country, who is only responsible for sonic branding
Prakash: The job is not done with a dedicated sonic branding position; we should rather hire Chief Sensuality Officers. Think of a brand as your favorite music club. Your experience at the club, exactly like a brand, will touch you in many ways: vibrating sound, smoky lights, smells of past parties, deeply moving emotions, dark memories, the people around you. This is less about headcounts for sonic branding, this is about building a holistic idea of a brand’s sensuality. Everyone in a company needs to have an understanding of this.
Reese: Many brands already have sound identities coming from their trusted ad agency. That can be tricky
Prakash: Yes. But this is not the problem of ad agency. Most marketing departments are organized along marketing channels which makes it very hard to establish something like sonic branding throughout a brand. Many people and skills must be inspired and be brought together to make sound work holistically. If not, your sonic branding will never the goosebumps you are hoping for.
Reese: Touchless payment is on the rise and already accounts for up to about 80% in some countries. Do you think the confirmation sound is a good solution?
Prakash: Yes, absolutely. A confirmation sound can certainly turn an intangible, artificial pay moment into an emotional one. Especially as long as credit card terminals are ugly. Turning a random money transaction into a memorable brand experience, that’s pretty interesting.
Reese: Do you agree with people who say that the golden age of audio is now, and that sound and identity will become more and more important through various touchpoints?
Prakash: I guess the golden age of audio started on Christmas Eve 1906 when the first music piece ever was broadcasted on a wireless radio (laughs). But yes, as music comes in many forms and can appear anywhere and thus is extremely powerful tool in a multi-sensual and multichannel world. But at the same time, we suffer from too much noise already. So do we really need brands following me anywhere, even with sound? Can silence be even more powerful than sound sometimes?
Reese: That brings about the topics of silence and sound pollution. How do you deal with that?
Prakash: I want to be the most silent brand out there, that is what I always tell my people. I truly believe in the power of silence itself within our noisy world. When I go to a party with a lot of new people, it is mostly the more silent and more mysterious characters that stand out for me. I believe that not being the loudest is a very powerful tool to stand out.
“I believe that not being the loudest is a very powerful tool to stand out.”
Reese: How should consumers build trust and loyalty, if brands have an ever-changing voice throughout various touchpoints?
Prakash: Maybe by personalizing its voice? Marketing is moving towards personalized experiences in various touchpoints along the buying journey. Music can be tailored to moments, to audiences. Can we work with music as we work with programmatic advertising? Maybe we should start thinking of sound as identities in micro-moments. The art will be to create unique and personal sound experiences that still share the bloodline of a brand.
Reese: All consumers want to belong and trust, you agree
Prakash: Sure, we are human beings. And as consumers we behave in a polyamorist mindset and are illoyal digital vagabonds. We switch between brands and media channels without guilt. I do too. Music brought me through my puberty. Through my style of music and the way I dressed my friends and I belonged together. Music was and is part of who I am. May that’s also true for the relationship between a brand and its customers.
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