101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Gregor Gründgens

Director Brand Marketing at Vodafone Germany


“For us, the beauty is in the fact that the artists we work with are authentic. We pick the ones that fit best to the strategy and to the message we want to send.”


Gregor Gründgens, Director Brand Marketing, Vodafone Germany

Gregor Gründgens has been Brand Director of Vodafone Germany since May 2008. The reputed brand manager has more than 20 years outstanding expertise in media and brand management. Prior to joining Vodafone Gregor was Director of Communication with Coca-Cola, Germany. He started out his career as a consultant at DMB&B. He has an MBA after studying business economics, focused on marketing and organization theory at the University of Siegen.

Reese: Would you agree that music is an expensive afterthought?

Gründgens: I think that has already changed over time. We see, that music is either a very cheap or a very expensive afterthought. It`s not so much in the middle anymore. My observation is that more and more brands seem to adapt and adopt the strategies that we also follow. Music is a very important part of marketing. The question is if it`s a strategic investment or an opportunistic approach. That`s still something that depends on the brand. 

Reese: So, how do you deal with music at Vodafone?

Gründgens: First of all, the fact that we have achieved great success with music in the past 10 years, is not caused by luck. But because we have a strategic framework in mind when we select music. I think that`s how it all started, and we still stick to that. The strategy is based on an analysis, that looked into our competitors’ acoustic profiles, but also other brand positioning aspects. The beginning was, to look at our brand values and how we then translate those values into music genres. Meaning, how does it translate into compositions, instruments, tempo, and so on? We try to look at our brand as if it was a person – not only what would it look like, but also what would it sound like?


Reese: You looked at the brand like a person?

Gründgens: Yes, we looked at it and saw the values that the brand wants to represent and to transport. Then, we tried to translate that into music genres. Which is of course a leap that you can challenge, but it`s also an important question of differentiation in the end. There were some genres we didn`t use because we are a global brand with local roots, so we couldn`t go with German Hip Hop, let`s say. We are more urban and progressive, rather than rural. Vodafone is an optimistic brand and thus rather upbeat. We mixed all these codes together in a certain sphere of music genres, which we thought are worthwhile to check. That`s basically what we still do. We briefed all the record labels and partners with that strategy. Today, we get a list of tracks for a certain project, and even the ones we don`t select become hits often times. The most successful music tracks we selected have a mainstream appeal but are unheard and come from unknown artists.  

Reese: How important is music in branding and building a brand?

Gründgens: Prior to my time here at Vodafone, I spent ten years at Coca-Cola. They are probably the inventors of modern marketing. They very early on understood what music means to build a brand, to convey a feeling, an emotion, a lifestyle. What I brought with me from Coca-Cola, was the urge to create a music strategy that is as distinct as the language, the identity system and the imagery we use. 

Reese: Why did you not make use of a holistic Sonic Identity?

Gründgens: We want to keep the creative freedom within that musical framework and not be stuck with something for a long time. That`s just not in line with what the brand wants to be. We want to pioneer new things and always stay relevant to certain audiences. Few times we deviate from our strategy. But usually, that doesn`t work. Every time we become a little too mainstream or a bit too old, it doesn`t work. 

Reese: Audio consumer touchpoints are growing exponentially, and brands should keep that in mind.

Gründgens: We do! But when we look at the consumption of online ads or Instagram Stories, we can also see how many people play them on mute. The situation in which you consume them, especially if they are just content snippets, is usually in a mute or muted environment. If everybody in a meeting or in a tram would listen to tracks and audio content at the same time, it`s not clear if the consumption of audio content will be easier or harder in the future. Not to mention if they start to interact with technology through voice. 

“Music is a very important part of marketing. The question is if it`s a strategic investment or an opportunistic approach. That`s still something that depends on the brand.”

Reese: Will it become more important for brands to have a holistic audio strategy?

Gründgens: I think it`s already very important to have that. We have a music strategy that somehow became our musical DNA. But we also analyzed the corporate language, our brand values, and our competitors. We completely changed the way we communicate in writing and in speaking. We use grammar in a certain way to make it benefit-led, action-driven, and so on. And we also venture into the area of corporate voice.  But as a global brand, we have things that are different in each country. We have a certain minimum standard of similarity and brand guidelines, but music and audio are excluded. That`s currently still a local thing.

Reese: Everything is global, but music and audio are local?

Gründgens: The visual aspects and the formal aspects of the brand are global. The language and how you express yourself in writing, but also music, is not centralized. That`s different to other brands. For us, the beauty is in the fact that the artists we work with are authentic. We pick the ones that fit to the strategy and to the message we want to send. We benefit from the fact that the songs are played on the radio or streams and that we are able to adapt our audio strategy individually to every country

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