101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Chief Marketing Officer at Fujitsu
“Sound is an essential element in stirring emotions, evoking memories, and generating feelings that are defined by features often unique to an individual, but generally consistent among wider populations.”
Taeko Yamamoto, Chief Marketing Officer, Fujitsu
As an accomplished manager, Taeko Yamamoto is a firm believer in the extraordinary achievements that are attainable when talented people collaborate around shared goals, and facilitating such achievements is the focus of her work. Ms Yamamoto brings to her work a breadth of hard and soft skills and a global professional network developed through her experience in two of the world’s most recognized firms, Microsoft and IBM, and leading a successful overseas startup. Possessing excellent bilingual communications skills, and valuing Emotional Intelligence as a key complement to technical skills, Ms Yamamoto commits to building high-functioning teams that can sustain performance over time, across markets, and throughout challenges.
Uli Reese: Why do you think sound is becoming so important in the digital age?
Taeko Yamamoto: Sound and music have always been important, but there seems to be a growing awareness of sonic elements, and growing opportunities for the applications of sound in the digital age. We are likely to see more widespread and creative applications of sound and music as marketers learn more, and more experts become available to provide advice. As marketing transitions away from static media to more interactive and multimedia platforms, opportunities will abound, limited, perhaps, only by our imaginations.
Reese: In that case would you say that sound is core to a successful brand?
Taeko: Sound is an essential element in stirring emotions, evoking memories, and generating feelings that are defined by features often unique to an individual, but generally consistent among wider populations. So, it’s vital for marketers to better understand how sound could be used more effectively in branding. If done properly, sound could certainly be central to a successful brand.
Reese: What advice would you have for your colleagues who are overwhelmed by this brave new world of sonic?
Taeko: Some may wish to learn more about sonic before embracing its use, but I can’t see why anyone would feel overwhelmed. Curious may be a better word. We recently conducted research with 5,000 respondents, most of whom said that Japanese IT-related companies seemed rather similar, leading us to explore unique ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Sonic aspects of branding present opportunities to do this, and opportunities are always welcome. Sonic aspects fit well in expressing our customer-centric values at Fujitsu, in alignment with the bold visuals we apply to connect emotionally with our customers, and it’s inspiring to imagine how these branding elements could further contribute to the trust we wish to spread throughout the communities we do business in.
“Sound and music have always been important, but there seems to be a growing awareness of sonic elements, and growing opportunities for the applications of sound in the digital age.”
Reese: Following on from that, how important is trust-building in a society like Japan, which is built upon values of peace, happiness and humility?
Taeko: Thank you for the question. My great-grandfather was a respected member of the samurai order, and he revered the tenets bestowed upon him in his service to society. Loyalty, responsibility, and discipline were highly valued traits, as were humility and the pursuit of information and improvement, and he, like many others of his time, sought to pass these principles on to the generations that followed. These traits still thrive today, and I believe they can be found in Japan’s leadership and in our manner of doing business. Global companies have mission statements and core sets of values that are adhered to in varying degrees, if at all. Our values at Fujitsu are meaningful to us individually, throughout the organization, as they form a vision we all wish to realize: a human society lifted toward an ever-better quality of life through individual and corporate responsibility, contribution, and trust. Just one example is Fujitsu’s supercomputer “Fugaku,” which is currently tasked with modelling solutions to the current pandemic. This kind of meaning behind our activities exemplifies our attitudes toward our work and senses of purpose.
Reese: Would you agree that effective sonic branding can have an impact on business performance?
Taeko: Certainly. Anything that enhances the emotional aspects of brand imaging and the buying process can have an impact on business performance. When a company can synthesize these elements around a product or service, competitive advantages can be obtained.
Reese: So do you think that sonic will become vital to any CMO’s branding roadmap moving forward?
Taeko: As briefly discussed, sonic is playing an increasingly significant role as awareness grows among marketers. As marketing platforms evolve, technology and techniques will also evolve, increasing the opportunities for the use of sonic in branding. As that occurs, sonic could very well become an important part of a CMO’s branding roadmap.
Reese: Do you believe that music can have an impact – either negative or positive – on consumer-buying behaviour?
Taeko: It’s difficult to imagine music having a negative impact, though I suppose it’s possible. Branding and marketing create context for sales, and the aim is to make people feel good about their decisions. Music can be an important part of that. When these align with the company’s mission, it can be deeply fulfilling, as well, and that is consistent with what we strive for at Fujitsu.
Reese: You talk about the company’s mission, so should brands have a long-term strategy in place when it comes to the use of sonic in branded communication?
Taeko: Brand management is best served through a system of consistency and creativity, showcasing the brand as a continuum of positive impressions and adaptation. Different elements may be in play at different stages, but sonic elements could certainly have a place in a long-term strategy. The key is integrating them, like any critical element, into the guiding principles and clear purpose of the brand as new techniques and technologies are brought to bear on emerging opportunities.
Reese: Is there a particular brand you’ve admired for their use of music?
Taeko: I’ve been moved by music for as long as I could remember, so I feel that mentioning only a few brands is a disservice to the scores of marketers out there doing great work for their brands. That said, I think Coca-Cola has used and continues to use music in branding to great effect, both locally and globally. Hitachi has been effective domestically in its use of music, inspiring everyone from children to the elderly to sing songs from their commercials. My former colleagues at Microsoft also deserve recognition for so effectively inspiring the world to embrace Windows 95 with “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones, and Windows XP with Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” The most recent example I could give is Apple’s use of pop music in the impressive minimalist promotion of the latest iPhone, integrating the music with the feature visuals in a highly appealing way.
Reese: Before we end, what is the most important statement you would like to make regarding your work at Fujitsu?
Taeko: Thank you for yet another thoughtful question, though not an easy one to answer. I suppose I would most like to make a positive difference in advancing Fujitsu’s mission of building trust in society through innovation. For me, both professionally and personally, that would be a most notable achievement.
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