101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Maria Gräfin von Scheel-Plessen
Global Head of Media & Advertising at Montblanc
"A sonic experience can be a big influencing mechanism and that has often been forgotten."
Maria Gräfin von Scheel-Plessen, Global Head of Media & Advertising at Montblanc
As the Global Head of Media & Advertising at Montblanc, Maria oversees the global advertisement strategy for 22 markets across all online and offline channels, dedicated to digitally transforming the luxury maison while enabling a seamless user journey and full Marketing funnel with a strong retail network. Previously Maria held leading Marketing positions with Rocket Internet in Singapore and Amazon in Munich and has a strong track record in the tech and premium fashion industries. Maria is a regular speaker at international events such as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona or the Transformation Summit in Dubai and is sharing her expertise on digital transformation and Marketing strategy and communications on a global scale.
Reese: Can you tell me about your role at Montblanc?
vSP: I’m the head of Global Media & Advertising for Montblanc for 22 markets. I’m in charge of online and offline marketing and advertising budgets, and my area also includes everything for the media buying side. I also have the social channels, display channels, SEO, SEA and marketing under my umbrella. And I handle everything in terms of campaign management, so a broad spectrum.
Reese: We know what Montblanc is doing but for those who don’t know can you explain more about the brand?
vSP: Montblanc has existed for 100 years. It’s a prestige brand from a very strong heritage background. What we do is to establish, communicate and support what we call the ‘art of writing’. Everything has become more and more digitally focussed but we still believe that the art of writing is a good and honest way to express your emotions. Writing the letter and connecting to your loved ones is something that has become extremely important during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time we are also tapping more into lifestyle products such as leather goods, headphones and smart products.
Reese: How important is audio identity in brand building and branding for Montblanc?
vSP: It’s important because it’s a gateway to the consumer, especially since there’s been such a strong shift in terms of digital media investment. You need to ensure that the consumer has a chance to understand the character and heritage of the brand. In the luxury world we talk about high value and highly emotional products, so we need to connect with the consumer on that level.
Reese: If you look at the consumer experience of using audio is it something you are satisfied with, or need to improve upon?
vSP: I would say it’s something we are working on. We have just changed creative agencies and we have a new team on our creative brand side. I think the focus on sonic experience has been a bit neglected but now they are seeing how important it is in terms of differentiating yourself as a brand.
Reese: Why do you think there is such a huge proactive shift from brands coming into audio?
vSP: For me it’s because there’s been a shift in terms of the audience that we’re targeting, which is Generation Y and Z. These audiences are naturally emotionally very stimulated - and they are spoiled! For previous generations digital was a bit of a miracle so there’s a big difference. We need to speed up our game in terms of advertising and targeting. It’s important to present a repeating reminder of who you are as a brand, and this can only be established if you have a sonic experience that’s easy to recognise.
Reese: Do you believe a brand should have a long-term strategy in terms of sound?
vSP: Yes, definitely. Otherwise it won’t be authentic, right? It would be just a one-time shot or just the one campaign activation.
Reese: Why are so many brands – I’m sorry to say – not authentic?
vSP: Two points. One is that when you start working with creative agencies, music and sound often comes last in the campaign creation process. We have the budget, the time frame, the product, and then we don’t care who is going to be the brand ambassador, so often you are looking at not what matches the brand but what matches the personality of the brand ambassador. So you’re already losing some authenticity because you’re giving up some of your brand DNA. And secondly, especially in the luxury or the premium high-end industry, you have to take into account a strong retail network. Boutiques, for example, have a special sound integration when the consumer walks in. The omni channel experience is a place where often we’re not as strong or authentic because the consumer has a different experience offline as opposed to online.
Reese: So many brands I talk to don’t understand what it means to own their music. Do you own any of the music on your videos online?
vSP: No. For me it seems like the creation of music is more niche. This is often not the core expertise of the agency we work with and if it is they don’t sell it like that. We have such a diverse range of products and we operate on a campaign by campaign basis, so they often see a big challenge in using the same visual experience and sound experience for different types of products. A debatable point is can all Montblanc products – watches, writing instruments, headphones - sound the same way or do they need a different identity? That’s often the point at which we struggle.
Reese: Before we wrap up, is there anything else that is important for you to say?
vSP: We talk so much about influencers and micro influencers these days but I think it makes sense for us to understand that even music and sound can be a big influencer and a tool for influencing others. It’s important to go back to your core, focus on your roots and find the right transition from the past to the future, a new target and new customer base. But on the way you can’t forget the character of the brand; the offline extension, the visual extension and sound extension. A sonic experience can be a big influencing mechanism and that has often been forgotten.
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