101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior

Agency EDITION

FELIX GLAUNER


FMR. Chief Creative Officer at Havas Worldwide Germany

 

“You need to understand the brand essence first, and then translate it into sound."

 
Chief Creative Officer, Havas Worldwide Germany

 

A trained communication designer at agencies in Darmstadt and San Francisco, Glauner started his career at Leo Burnett in Frankfurt, followed by a range of positions at Springer & Jacoby, Ogilvy, Publicis and McCann. Glauner has been managing Havas Worldwide’s creative departments in Germany since 2005. He is also the head of Havas’ European Creative Board. Glauner’s campaigns have been awarded numerous times, ranging from the Cannes Lions over Gold and Silver Effi es to an Epica Grand Prix and several ADC awards. In 2005, he was part of the film jury in Cannes and at the D&AD.

Reese: How important is music in branding?

Glauner:
Branding should stimulate all senses… so music certainly plays a huge role in building a brand. Most of the time the emotional aspect is in focus, but if you approach it in a professional manner and implement it effectively, music can increase the awareness of your brand immensely. Nonetheless, it’s the element that’s most often missing in client briefing sessions. Communication strategies rarely include music.

"Branding should stimulate all senses… so music certainly plays a huge role in building a brand."

Reese: That‘s true. Most brands neglect music and treat it like an afterthought. But why is that so often the case?


Glauner:
Music, or rather sound in general, is the least rational element in communications. On the one hand
it’s seen as an energetic means to intensify a message or to dramatize your story – a powerful tool that allows
you to touch your audience’s hearts. But on the other hand, it’s nothing that can easily be put into words. Strategic approaches to a product or a brand message are mostly very analytical and rational. Music is often seen as a matter of the Creative Director’s or the client’s taste, which I consider a big mistake.

Reese: Most brands are very disciplined when it comes to their visual and verbal communication. That’s rarely the case with their audio.

Glauner: Talking about discipline is very German, we tend to create rulebooks for everything. Of course, you
need to know the rules to break them, but as a French agency network, we try to approach branding in a more playful and less systematical way. I know that can be good and bad at the same time, but sometimes you have to give yourself a license to create novelty and an emotional impact. Keep in mind that 90% of the stuff that our industry creates is either irrelevant or boring, none of which connects to real people. Testing is a big issue and leads to a lot of repetitive and cliché work, also when it comes to the choice of music. You need to stay dynamic, contemporary, and surprising. Music and sound can add a lot to that. Corporate identities need to evolve and stay fresh and so does a brand’s sound identity.

Reese: That’s true, but I think there should still be a clear intention behind it. Coca-Cola is a good example for that: It‘s a very dynamic brand, but it‘s still also consistent and recognizable, because it follows a very strict audio style guide. It‘s a very potent combination of consistency and flexibility.

Glauner: It does help when a brand has a basic framework, certain stylistic rules to follow. Especially if a
brand collaborates with a range of different agencies or artists, it needs to be able to relate back to its core idea. In my experience, musicians are often happy to have a predefined starting point. In jazz, improvisation is regarded as a key element. But if the artists aren‘t brilliant in suggesting the core theme, the audience will perceive just chaos. Yes, Coca-Cola has a very consistent musical identity, but they don‘t seem to be as strict as they used to be. Today it often works on a more subliminal branding level and is not as distinct as it used to be. I‘m sure they do it on purpose to make their communication less ad-like and more contemporary. Of course, you can still feel the optimism of the brand in its sound design. It just shows how professional they approach the topic.

Reese: If you directly compare Fortune 100 brands – Coca-Cola is the number 1, Pepsi is the number 2.
Coca-Cola has a sound identity, Pepsi doesn’t. The same counts for McDonald’s versus Burger King. I
have found there’s a correlation between a brand’s market value and its audio behavior.

Glauner: Well, if a brand is successful, it is usually because of a whole range of aspects. It really depends
on how good the people are who manage it. I doubt you can trace a brand’s success back to its audio identity
alone – it is one of the many elements that can define a brand strategy. What Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are definitely doing right is that they’re not caught up in short-term, hasty communication measures, but they actually seem to follow a well-thought-through, long-term branding strategy on all levels of communication, catering to all senses. Naturally, audio is a part of that.

Reese: You mention hasty communication measures. In my research, I’m particularly interested in how decision-
making processes with regards to music unfold in agencies’ everyday business. And I have often found they’re quite subjective and can be very frustrating to everyone involved. Do you agree?

Glauner: It really starts with how you communicate music. Talking about music can be exhausting, because you’re trying to rationalize something that most directly speaks to your heart. I think the worst thing you can do is to try and speak a musician’s language when you’re not a musician yourself. Instead, you should try to express the emotions or the mood that you want to get across. Of course, your success also depends on whether your music partner can translate that accordingly. Reference tracks can help, but you have to be careful not to get stuck with a reference song that your client has fallen in love with but that’s out of reach. We at Havas have the big advantage now that we have formed a partnership with Universal Music, so that chapter is hopefully closed for us for good.

Reese: What if you have a variety of options on the table – which is usually the case, I daresay. How do
you and your team determine which one to pick? Do you follow a certain protocol?

Glauner: I have to admit it used to be quite often a chaotic process. We are now bringing in music a lot
earlier into the process, though, and we try to make it part of the idea, the story, more often. We just did so
with a series of Citroen Cactus ads: We bought The Comedian Harmonist’s “Mein kleiner grüner Kaktus”
(eng. my little green cactus), modernized the piece and used variations of the central theme in several 15
sec. commercials of the campaign. It gave it a spirit of playfulness and ease – the “jester” spirit, if you’re talking Jungian archetypes. In other instances, the topic music only comes into play towards the very end of a project. That’s where you want to have a variety of options, then you throw ideas back and forth, you’re looking for something that matches the brand character and the spirit of the ad. And then sometimes music isn’t the answer at all, and you just work with sound effects instead to keep it as authentic as possible.

Reese: Just by listening to the frequency of somebody’s voice, we intuitively decide within split seconds whether we can trust them or not. If you consider what that means for voiceovers in brand communication, for example, we as an audio agency firmly believe that brands should test their audio communication. What is your opinion on that? How do you evaluate audio brand communication?

Glauner: There’s a lot of testing happening these days on all levels of communication. To be honest, I am not
happy at all about this development for various reasons. But I agree that decision-making processes based on gut feeling alone are not constructive, and that they should be handled in a more professional manner. It’s a matter of understanding the brand essence in the first place, and then translating that into sound. The question should be: What does my brand stand for? And with regards to sound: What does my brand sound like?

Reese: When a brand doesn’t have a consistent voice, a consistent way of communicating its audio identity, it will alienate its customers.

Glauner: If a brand can alienate its customers, at least it manages to get noticed! Most brands fail to get noticed in the first place. The truth is that consumers simply don’t care about most brands. We need to do a better job at making brands stick out and get people’s attention – even if it’s by being disruptive and irritating. You see, the thing about most brand strategies is: They try to construct a brand universe around facts, not feelings. That’s why music is so important. In the end, the message itself isn’t key alone- it’s how we’re conveying it. If you want to change someone’s opinion, it will get much easier if you also manage to reach his heart. And as we all know, sorry for the cliché, music is the key to the heart.

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