101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Lead CMO at Mars, Inc.
“We need to think about sound and music very differently if sonic branding is to play an integral role in driving the distinctiveness of the brand.”
Jane Wakely, Lead CMO, Mars, Inc.
Jane Wakely is the lead CMO of Mars Incorporated and Global CMO of Pet Nutrition. She has been instrumental in driving Mars’ unique combination of evidence-based marketing with creativity and purpose at the heart. This has helped Mars to be recognized as the one of the most creative companies in the world through the Cannes Lion Festival of Creativity and WARC in recent years. In 2019, this included winning the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Sustainable Development Goals with “The Lion’s Share Fund”, an innovative initiative which drives wildlife conservation & biodiversity programs through brand, creative and media partnerships together with the founding members and the UNDP. Over Jane’s two decades at Mars she has worked across all segments. In her own words, she joined for the great brands such as M&Ms®, SNICKERS®, GALAXY®, EXTRA®, PEDIGREE®, IAMS®, SHEBA®, and ROYAL CANIN® but has stayed for the people, principles and purpose of the company and is energized by the opportunity to make a meaningful and measurable difference.
Uli Reese: How important is music and sonic in brand building?
Jane Wakely: If used in the correct way great music can grab attention, convey an emotion and aid communication like nothing else can. What’s important in branding is that most adverts don’t work because people don’t remember the brand, so I think the intriguing thing about music and sonic branding is how it can help us create distinctiveness for our brands.
Reese: Even the big brands feel completely overwhelmed when it comes to sonic identity today. Is that something you see or identify with?
Jane: It’s still an emerging field and music is so diverse and can seem so subjective it can be hard to know where to start. Over time, the opportunity is how do you make the music you use distinctive to your brand, so that when you hear a sound or music it evokes memory structures and brand meaning. That’s what we’re trying to do with all of our distinctive assets. At Mars the M&M’s characters are more famous than Father Christmas in many places around the world. Consumers maybe only see an M&M character for a nano second and they know what it is – it evokes deeper emotion and memory that distinctly relates to the brand.
Reese: Why is there still this licence driven behaviour with so many brands, for example Pepsi and Coke, as it feels completely non authentic today?
Jane: That’s the difference between sponsorship and branding. You can sponsor and borrow lots of equities and that can play a role in branding but we have to be very careful because ultimately we’re trying to build distinctive brand stories and encode them in people’s memories. I do think Coke have got an amazing equity with their ‘Holidays Are Coming’ Christmas ad. As a consumer, I know that the second I hear that ad it conjures up a feeling of Christmas. That’s the difference between using music as a borrowed memory structure and using music as a distinctive memory structure.
Reese: Would you agree that a comprehensive audio style guide for brands could be useful?
Jane: Firstly, you need to clarify what you’re trying to achieve. For me, music and sonic branding could have two very legitimate roles to play. One is using music to grab attention and create an emotional response and secondly, there is an opportunity for sonic branding to be part of the distinctive memory structures for both outcomes how you brief is important but there’s a difference in intent. There’s nothing wrong with using music to evoke emotion, even if that’s its only role, it’s not there to strengthen the branding. But even in that instance if you have the advertising idea and then the music is the last part of the brief, I don’t think that’s a great way to work. You need to start with the emotional response you want people to have to your communication and brand. In that case, music is a very important tool.
Reese: Do you have an example of that at Mars?
Jane: We did that successfully with the ‘Sarah and Juan’ Extra Gum campaign for Wrigley. It’s beautiful storytelling and what we were trying to communicate is that it’s the ‘extra’ efforts that bring you closer. As the story was being shaped, the team upfront thought about what role music was going to play in creating the right emotion to make that story capture people’s imagination. They ended up using the Elvis Presley track, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, and recorded it in a very distinctive way with a then up and coming artist called Haley Reinhart. Now that track is not going to be thought of as distinctly extra, but it stood out to capture attention and it helped deliver the right emotional outtake for the story. Overall, we need to think about sound and music very differently, if sonic branding is to play an integral role in driving the distinctiveness of the brand. We need to be clear what assets we want to create and integrate them from the start of the process, right up-front in the brief.
“Brands need to be multi-dimensional and they need to appeal to all of the senses.”
Reese: Bearing in mind all the innovations in technology, do you think that sonic is the future?
Jane: I don’t think it’s the future but it could be a powerful accelerator for performance in some platforms for the future. Absolutely, I think it will become an increasing part of the future for platforms like Tik Tok, and technology like Alexa and Google Home voice recognition. Brands that think about it now and really start to build their capability in this area could really carve out a competitive advantage by utilising it.
Reese: Who do you think is using audio brilliantly right now?
Jane: I think one brand that uses music well, more for my first point about grabbing attention and capturing emotion is John Lewis. You can tell that music is part of their brief up front in the process, – it’s integral to the creative idea and crafting of the execution.
Reese: What do you see as the main challenges in terms of how to approach sonic branding and voice looking to the future?
Jane: Brands need to be multi-dimensional and they need to appeal to all of the senses. Depending on the platform you use you have to ask, is it sufficient just to have visual distinctiveness? In some platforms yes, but in many platforms no. In this new digital world where voice, sonic and audio are so integral, it’s essential that we begin to leverage all of the senses so that our brands remain top of mind to the consumer.
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