101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
FMR EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at FireEye
"Just like branding is a science and visual identity is a science, audio is a science. It comes down to building trust. It comes down to building alignment. It comes down to building energy."
Vasu Jakkal, fmr. EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, FireEye
Vasu Jakkal, former CMO at FireEye has spent 18 years in tech across marketing (brand, comms, products, demand, operations), strategy and general management in Cloud, CyberSecurity, IoT & Mobility. Vasu was recognized by Forbes as "CMO Next" one of 50 Marketing Chiefs redefining the role and shaping the future of marketing. In addition, she was recognized as Top 25 women in Cyber Security by the Software Review, and as 10 Best CMOs of 2019 by Silicon Review. In 2018 Vasu was the finalist of Women of the Year by Women in IT Awards.
Since this interview in May 2020, Vasu transitioned to Microsoft as the new Corporate Vice President of Security, Compliance & Identity Marketing.
Uli Reese: Can you talk about your work in cyber security?
Vasu Jakkal: I have a passion for cybersecurity and technology and believe we have a responsibility to protect people and the planet from cyberattacks. I have worked at security industry leaders like FireEye, Intel and now Microsoft and I’m so thrilled to be in this newly created role to help Microsoft’s customers’ meet their security, compliance and identity needs.
Reese: Is there a role for audio in cyber crime?
Vasu: That’s such a great question. When it comes to cyber crime, think about deep fakes, where someone can now mimic you digitally. Your visual and audio senses can be manipulated. As an engineer I would break it down into bits and bytes and energy and vibrations – that’s what audio is, and people can manipulate that. Which is important to recognize because now audio is not just about your personal identity, but also your brand identity. Post Covid-19, most of our trust building is going to be done digitally – it’s going to be online. So if someone can mess with your identity, that’s going to be challenging. In cyber crime we have to work out how we can use technology to descramble that fake information.
Reese: When you talked about the trust-building process being done digitally, it seems to me that the business you’re in is all about that – it has “trust” written all over it.
Vasu: That’s so right – there are times when people talk with a certain energy that has a deep impact because we become more and more digitally connected. If I can’t physically be with you and “feel” that trust, I have to rely on visual and aural aids to build empathy. It has to be authentic, it has to be truly who you are, or it can drive discord.
Reese: I wanted to talk to you about noise pollution. We as a company have to be very careful that we’re not contributing to noise pollution. Audio has a lot of influence on stress levels and how we all get along.
Vasu: I do think that how you use sound is going to make a big difference in your ability to live – whether it’s to learn, to do your work, to be harmonious. Sound has such a deep significance, and how we use it is going to create discord, anxiety and nervousness – or it’s going to create harmony and positive energy and positive value. So, we, in this community of minds you’re bringing together, need to figure out from an audio perspective how we can have a lasting impact, not just on marketing and brands but on society as a whole.
Reese: Thanks to Intel, people always ask for sound logos now. But a sound logo is nowhere near enough to reach all the different touch points you need. It’s like a business card. It’s a great expression of your sonic identity, a three-second expression, but it’s not a Sonic DNA.
Vasu: An identity has certain attributes: it has to be own-able, unique, and authentic. It has to reflect the personality of your company. If you don’t have your own music, your own sound, if someone hears a track, they’re not going to associate your company with that. What was powerful about Intel was not the sound itself – it was the consistency. I agree that it’s an art and a science and that you need to have consistent practices and a strategy. What do my videos sound like? What do my podcasts sound like? It’s not always the same music – but just as in visual communications you have a palette of colors, you should have the same for audio.
Reese: When we talk about a sonic identity, we talk about building a sonic vocabulary.
Vasu: I love the idea of a sonic vocabulary. As you said, cyber security is about trust – so what if we could figure out: “What is the music of trust? What is the sound of trust?” If we can establish that – wow, isn’t that magical? I think there’s a big future in this idea. What is the sound of empathy? Of love? Of truth?
Our brand campaign is all about truth, by the way. Given the power of sound and its impact on emotions, on memory, I think there are going to be breakthroughs in this field that we’ve never had, which go far beyond you and me and our collective – and which are going to be world-changing.
"It comes down to building trust. It comes down to building alignment. It comes down to building energy. So as marketers we have a long way to go before integrating that."
Reese: I also wanted to share with you some of the findings of volume one. This was one of the largest tables of top creatives ever assembled. And what they all agreed on was that over 50 per cent of the value of audio communication is found in music. From a marketer’s point of view, how do you look at this?
Vasu: I absolutely agree with that. A brand can manifest itself in many ways. There’s the story; there’s the visual identity; there’s a tone and there’s a personality. So where is audio? It’s completely missing from our brand identity book. I grew up at Intel – and Intel had a sound!
At FireEye, we also had a sound for our logo. Just like branding is a science and visual identity is a science, audio is a science. And audio is going to be increasingly important for all the reasons you talked about. It comes down to building trust. It comes down to building alignment. It comes down to building energy. So as marketers we have a long way to go before integrating that.
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