101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Michael Lüttgen

Managing Director International at Kaufland


“The quality and the correct implementation of music is as important as all the other parts in branding.”

Michael Lüttgen, Managing Director International, Kaufland

Michael Lüttgen has been working at Kaufland as the International Managing Director for almost three years. He has over 15 years of international experience in marketing, and his expertise combines an in-depth understanding of e-commerce, sales, product management, and online marketing.

Reese: How did you first start to think about the implementation of sound into your brand?

First of all, we started to look at different options in order to give sound the credit it deserves. One of them was a traditional sound logo. We were thinking if Kaufland could make use of this particular asset to grow recognizability and build brand equity. We looked at a pile of agencies due to enormous production processes. For us, we decided that only a sound logo wouldn`t be the solution for our problem. The results of all these processes just weren`t making the right difference in order to achieve our goal.

Reese: How did this process look like?

We sat together with our lead agency, just like we usually do. We thought about what we needed and also looked at our competitors and what they are doing. We took a closer look at our brand values, our brand DNA and our target customers. We asked ourselves how we want to be perceived by the target customers, what do we want to be for them. In particular also, what a purchase at Kaufland, beyond all national borders, evokes in terms of feelings and emotions.

The advertising agency then contacted various sound agencies, which all proposed traditional sound logos to us. I think we listened to several hundred different sound logos. We sometimes took one and implemented it in a touchpoint. For example, in a radio spot, a TV ad or also digital media. After many tries, we were just not happy with what we had seen so far and started to think that we are just too demanding about how strong the topic needs to be handled from the beginning. Also, if this was really so different from what all others are doing, then we actually have the ability to stand out. For the proposed sound logos the investment of media time in those 1,5 seconds was just too high and we didn`t believe that there was enough value added.

The topic of flexibility was also something we were considering during this process as we have many different campaigns with different focuses. We were not quite sure if the one-fits-all approach would convince us. According to that, we noticed that we really have to approach sound in a more holistic way. The music concepts used in TV or radio advertisements didn’t fit to the sound logo we put at the end at all. We started to look at more holistic sound concepts and thought about the way that songs in Kaufland spots should sound like. A kind of sound DNA was created according to different moods. Sadly, I had the feeling that this was still too generic.

Reese: Only to be sure, there were no assets created specifically out of your DNA. All that you could do is make use of existing tracks, which were tagged with the attribute you were looking for, for one specific asset.

Lüttgen: Exactly. For example, in our POS radio we predominantly play music. Through the process, we would basically only find out which songs would make sense to play at this touchpoint with the goal to create a better overall mood. I listened to the result with my colleagues later, and I couldn`t hear any difference. That`s what we have basically done so far.

Right now, we are also shifting our media budget to digital. In regard to single creations, we increasingly notice that what we did earlier for the traditional TV spots won`t work in digital channels. We don`t have the time to tell emotional stories which start slow and end with a firework. If we don`t reach the attention of our customers in the first 1,2 seconds, there will be a problem. The way that we implement music in our creations needs to be changed completely. Most of the time, music comes into the process too late. At Kaufland, the adaptation of digital touchpoints came into our agenda too late. We thought about moving images and then broke them down to the different channels. In terms of music, that just doesn`t work any longer.

I am quite sure that the topic of music and sound needs to be approached in a different way. It has the ability to go directly to the heart, which is very valuable for us as we are in a strongly competitive market. We want to build sympathy and create a positive customer experience.

Reese: What especially was the DNA made out of?

Lüttgen: To be fair, we didn`t finish the whole process. We made some exercises to see how it would look like in the end. The agency listened to a whole bunch of our previous productions and always asked us test questions, for example, how we want to be perceived by our customers or if the brand is more introverted or extroverted,activating or relaxing. On this basis, they suggested music genres. Basically, we could take any song from a traditional music databank which is tagged with the special attribute we are looking for and implement it.

Reese: Music goes directly into the subconscious. I can close my eyes, but I can`t close my ears. What does that mean for brands in general?

Lüttgen: I`m convinced that music doesn`t only go directly into the heart of the customer but can also influence a buying decision. The quality and the correct implementation of music is as important as all the other parts in branding.

Reese: Shouldn`t it also be treated equally then?

Lüttgen: In general, we always have a conflict that we need a direction and be recognizable. It doesn`t make sense to use the same models and the same kind of music in every spot. We need to be flexible with our work, but also become recognizable through consistency over time. Only if this is a given, we can be sure that we give our customers the best possible experience. Those experiences aren`t just bound to a three second sound logo at the end of a spot, they are way more than that.

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