101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Olaf Geuer
Group Head of Brand Strategy & Experience at Swisscom


“Sound is one of the most emotional elements you can use in branding and communications. So, we are trying to use it to our best advantage.”

Olaf Geuer, Group Head of Brand Strategy & Experience, Swisscom

Olaf Geuer is the Group Head of Brand Strategy & Experience at Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecoms company. Prior to that he held different management positions at Swisscom, BBC and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. He is a branding, communications and costumer experience expert who has developed award winning brands and services on a global scale.

Reese: What`s your role at Swisscom?

I`m the Head of Brand Strategy & Experience, which means that my team and I are responsible for the development and management of the Swisscom brand and the brand portfolio. We are developing and executing the brand strategy, are responsible for the communication and social media strategy, the entire brand experience management and measurement. That means we create, develop, test and manage the brand to make it more successful. We work very closely with other departments to get the brand experience implemented across various customer touchpoints.

Reese: Should brands be translated into sound?

No – because the word brand already includes sound. If you say brand, it`s 360 degrees, a holistic experience. It`s what you see, what you feel, what you taste and what you hear.

Reese: So, it should be translated into sound?

Geuer: It`s an integral part of it. So obviously it`s a little provocative to say «no», because a brand should be defined with all visual, physical and sonic elements at once to be able to create holistic experiences from that. What I mean is, that we shouldn’t create a brand and then try to translate it into sound. Sound should be a part of an integrated creation process rather than a translation.

Reese: Most brands don’t think like that or are not translated into sound yet.

Geuer: I would argue that those brands made the mistake that they didn`t think of sound when they developed the brand in the first place. If you want to successfully manage a brand these days, you need to think of it as a holistic and relevant customer experience. Looking at shops, for example, it`s not about the logo on top of the door. It’s about the interaction of the customers and the staff, the shop layout, the materials, the products, and also obviously the sonic experience. You need to think about overall acoustics, sounds from materials such as the floor, and from products on display. These elements have a huge impact on the overall experience.

Reese: Audio-consumer touchpoints will rise exponentially and that is something even older brands have to keep in mind.

Geuer: Yes, not only traditional brands have to ask themselves how they can use new technologies to their advantage. Voice interfaces for example are opening new possibilities to interact with customers. They are giving brands literally a «new voice». At Swisscom we are always challenging ourselves to develop and integrate new technologies where we see potential. It is very important to learn and improve while going forward. End of last year we have launched our Swisscom Box including a voice interface.

Reese: How is music impacting our consumer behavior?

Geuer: Sound and music are making an impact on many levels and are one of the most emotional elements you can use in communications. Our Swisscom sonic logo is very well known in Switzerland. It is based on a voice, that gives the brand a more human and approachable touch. When it comes to music, we try to follow that path of positive emotions and to connect with the people, the customers. Music is a key element to get attention and into a dialog with audiences.

Reese: 50% of the value of audio-visual communication is found in music and sound.

Geuer: I think that`s an interesting statement. Digital touchpoints are changing brand experiences and communications. It is not only about what you see or hear, but how you engage and interact. It needs to come together, and sound plays an important role, but I can’t put a specific number to it.

Reese: If something adds that much value, why are we not spending more on it?

This goes back to my point of the importance of holistic experiences. Customers are human beings that use all their available senses, so it is only logical that you should create experiences that engage all these senses. If you think of sound as an add-on and don’t plan time and budget properly, you will compromise your experience and impact.

“Digital touchpoints are changing brand experiences and communications. It is not only about what you see or hear, but how you engage and interact.”

Reese: Yet are the decision-making processes around music very subjective.

Geuer: Yes, I agree. It is even more subjective than visual taste. Some people prefer classical music, some techno or country music. Different taste drives different opinions. As music is such an emotional element, it is sometimes hard to abstract and make the right choices. In the context of branding, it is about a business trying to connect with people. It is about, what the brand stands for and how we can create an outstanding and relevant experience. When you work with music or sound, a key element for a decision-making process is evidence. It makes discussions much easier if you measure and prove that your sound concept supports branding or business goals.

Reese: Who decides what music ends up on the screen? Who makes the decisions about music?

In an ideal case, we are deciding with the respective department. We always try to connect the elements of audience, goal, message and brand. Based on this we try to define the best execution across all layers, including music.

Reese: Music does most of the time appear all the way at the end of a project timeline.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We just finished a project for an entertainment product family where we created a truly audiovisual experience. But I must admit, that also we created things, where the sound sits at the end of the timeline. Brands have to be very responsible and mature when it comes to sounds and music, as it can be very powerful.

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