101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Founder, Chairman and Partner at Goodby at Silverstein & Partners
"As Beethoven said, music enters our brains through an entirely different door. It gets our attention immediately and, if used properly, can say things that words would find impossible.”
Jeff Goodby Founder, Chairman and Partner, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Originally from Rhode Island, Harvard graduate Goodby started his career as a journalist in Boston. His illustrations have been published in TIME, Mother Jones and Harvard Magazine. Goodby started his advertising career at J. Walter Thompson, before taking up a position at Ogilvy & Mather. At Ogilvy, he also met Rich Silverstein, and the two founded
GS&P in 1983. Since then, they have won just about every advertising award imaginable. (Goodby was the guy who originally wrote, “Got milk?” on a napkin.) In 2006 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Goodby continues to believe that his success is a happy confluence of his mother, a painter, his father, a Wharton graduate, and his family, a constant reminder of irony and humility.
Reese: Jeff , good to have you be a part of this series. I want to talk about sound in brand communication. In your opinion, how important is music in building a brand?
Goodby: I think it can be incredibly important. So often, I fi nd creative people avoiding music because it is SO moving and motivating. They are afraid of its power. Usually, it’s because they don’t connect to music in their own life, or they have narrow, limiting tastes.
Reese: I agree. That‘s what my experience as a composer, producer and audio branding strategist has taught me, too. Music, to most people, holds a very special and personal place in their lives. That‘s also why most decisions in regards to music tend to be very subjective and intuitive, which, to me, can be quite problematic. How important is music for you personally and for your work?
Goodby: As Beethoven said, music enters our brains through an entirely different door. It gets our attention immediately and, if used properly, can say things that words would find impossible.
Reese: That‘s right. Neurological research has shown just that. There‘s an entire discipline nowadays looking into multisensory brand experiences, called neuro- marketing. So considering the effect music and sound can have on our system, do you believe the right choice of music can also change consumer behavior?
Goodby: Of course. Hooky music is as much a part of a successful brand as naming and design.
Reese: I agree – in fact, I firmly believe music should be part of a brand strategy, on a conceptual level. That also means that brands need to commit to it long-term, in a consistent way, and develop their own, unique brand voice. Do you think a brand should be recognizable by sound only?
Goodby: It could be. It doesn’t have to be. Sometimes music can subtly make other elements like copy and design much more powerful.
Reese: If you compare a brand‘s visual and verbal communcation to its audio communication: Do you think audio should be treated with the same discipline as visual and verbal branding? Most brands have a visual style guide. Do you believe they should also follow an audio style guide?
Goodby: I hate style guides of any kind. They limit the possibilities around iconic items. I am someone who believes you should dare people to rip off your brand. If they can, your brand isn’t powerfully enough expressed.
Reese: If you look back at your career – could you share your most memorable experience with music and how it infl uenced your work?
Goodby: I have so many. What if you put some Ravel piano stuff on a dog food commercial? We did. It was amazing.
Reese: As the founder of an audio agency, my business partner and I are trying to introduce people to audio branding and what it can achieve for their brands. We think a lot of brands are missing out – and in a lot of cases, they might not even be aware of it. So we‘re trying to change the conversation by speaking on the topic, globally. Is audio brand design part of your conversation when talking to a client about brand communication?
Goodby: I wouldn’t approach a client with a phrase like “audio brand design,” but I know what you mean. It’s incredibly powerful when a brand is associated with a certain style of music. That doesn’t necessarily mean a jingle, but I have no problem with good ones.
Reese: That‘s a good point. A good audio branding strategy doesn‘t require an audio logo. Apple is a strong audio brand, but it doesn‘t use a mnemonic. A big misconception about audio branding seems to be that it‘s just about producing jingles. But it goes a lot deeper than that: Our goal is to uncover a brand‘s audio identity. Where do you see the greatest challenge in finding a brand’s voice?
Goodby: Fear. Clients are afraid to settle on answers these days.
Reese: So when it comes to music, what’s your current decision-making process? How do you pick which track is going on air?
Goodby: Same as always. I play it for my children. Okay, this is only half true, but it’s influential with me. I am a big believer in showing things around, then making up your own mind. You have to be a little fearless to do this.
Reese: I have found that a lot of creatives struggle with putting into words what it is they‘re looking for music-wise. So for us music professionals, it is essential to be able to translate what visually-driven creative people mean when they say the music should be warmer, more exciting, more emotional... Especially when they don‘t have a background in music themselves. How do you communicate music when briefing a composer/music company/music supervisor or
Goodby: I read music and play the piano, guitar, and violin in a somewhat forgettable manner. Musicians like people who play a bit. You know the language.
"It’s incredibly powerful when a brand is associated with a certain style of music. That doesn’t necessarily mean a jingle, but I have no problem with good ones."
Reese: That‘s interesting! I find it really curious how many of my interview partners have a personal connection with music and actually play an instrument themselves. So what’s your evaluation process when it comes to music and sound? Do you test audio assets used in your brand communication?
Goodby: I’m not afraid to.
Reese: What about cost control – how do you determine how much you are willing to pay for music - licensed or scored?
Goodby: We try to decide just how critical the piece is to the eff ect it creates. A rather unknown piece can be worth much more than a well-known standard, in the right context.
Reese: Is there a certain brand that you admire in their use of audio in their brand communication?
Goodby: I love brands like State Farm and McDonald’s who know how valuable it can be to stick with a great jingle. So many terrifi c pieces of music have been thrown out by impulsive change agents.
Reese: Considering the last twenty years or so, do you see a shift in how important music is becoming in your brand communication?
Goodby: It should be more important than ever. As I said, clients are afraid of commitment, especially across platforms. But they should be SEEKING such things out.
Reese: And what twenty years down the line? What is going to change? What does the audio branding of the future look like?
Goodby: It is the thing someone is whistling down the street, as always.
Reese: Last question. Songwriters find it difficult to predict a number one hit. This isn‘t necessarily about music, though. How does a big idea feel? Do you recognize it immediately when it arrives?’
Goodby: Sometimes big ideas have to grow on you a bit. They are like music in that respect. Suddenly you find yourself falling asleep with them in your head. Then you know.
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