It's going to be a very good year for sonic branding. Here's why...
1. Mature capabilities
I look around the world and see practitioners with experience, credibility and creativity. It's not just chancers any more!
2. More ways to hear
It's going to be a massive year for tablet PCs, super-Smart phones and Internet TV. More gadgets, more speakers, more Opportunities to Hear.
3. Sonic BRICing
Not a hard one to spot but the BRIC economies are going to continue to bring growth to the global economy. Even better the BRIC economies, having rapidly industrialised and constructed will now grow faster in services/intangibles than ever before. Cue 'branding' as the essential differentiator between services...
4. Mainstream acceptance
The outstanding campaign of 2010 had to be Old Spice. Fantastic TV scripts, great social media integration, super sales results. The ads that won all the awards had a big, fat, memorable sonic tagged on the end. If anyone tries to tell you sonics are anything but an effective, essential component of a TVC, just show them the Old Spice spots.
The people who believe in sonic branding will make it happen in 2011. As we all stagger back to work in January let's remember what it is that gets us excited: great creative work built on ground-breaking strategies for appreciative clients!
The mark of a great salesperson is not that they are great listeners or smooth operators or have a contacts list as long as your arm (though these are all useful). The true sign of a great salesperson is that that can spot a wave coming (at approximately the right moment) and ride it for as long as it is worth riding.
Selling is super-super easy when you have a product or service to sell that people actually want. Understanding this - and letting this principal guide you - will allow anyone to be great salesperson. Trouble is, passion, emotion, sunk costs and a general lack of ability to 'smell the cheese' often get in the way of a person's ability to think clearly: Do people want what I am selling? If not, how can I change what I am selling so they will want it.
So much sales training is based upon techniques for changing the minds of the buyers - to get them to want your product. I'm afraid that is all bull***t. You can't work that way and have long term success - unless you want to turn into this.
The point of this post?
For the first time since I started in sonic branding I can say without a hint
of BS that the market finally wants what I have to sell.
Whilst parenting this weekend, it occurred to me that my oldest son is an appalling loser. By which I mean that he HATES losing.
Full disclosure: He is 5. I had two running races with him. I won the first because he ran to the wrong tree. Because he was upset we had a second race and he had a big head start. To my shame, I sprinted as fast as I could and beat him. He was beside himself. But hey, the kid's gotta learn.
As with all things father and son-ly, this got me thinking. Is my son a bad loser because I am? Or can I blame his mother?
After literally minutes of self-analysis, I figured out that I am a bad loser but not in the crying and stomping around way. Even worse I have realised that I am a bad winner but again not in a conventional 'in your face loser!' kind of way.
Here's the deal:
I love the competition. Running races, pitches, thought leadership arms races in sonic branding...I love to compete. I do like to win. It is nice to have the 'champagne moment' but my problem is that as soon as the bubbles have been drunk I am thinking about the next race. The last was nothing - the next is everything. So winning is just a moment - one spark in time followed by an instant yearning for the next race.
And here's the real kicker. Losing is not just a moment - a fragment in time - losing stays with me for months, years, decades. I carry my failures with me everywhere I go. They are enduring, they are the permanent scars of a life spent competing.
It is my fear of losing that really drives me - the knowledge that a slip-up will last forever is naturally stronger than a desire to sip-up the champagne.
I will try to teach my kids to enjoy the wins little longer, forget the losses a little quicker. I will also seek their forgiveness as it seems that I have no deniability at all when it comes to passing on poor character traits. Sorry boys.
I can't help it. I may be a sonic branding guy but what really interests me these days is the business rather than the creativity; I'm in it for the deal - not just for the music; I want to make a difference - not just make some noise.
My strategy? It's simple.
Here it is. No lie - no bullshit - I am really working this. It is simple, not particularly original and I won't explain it. It is:
Good things with (or for) good people.
If you catch me doing rubbish things for bad people, feel free to arrange some kind of intervention.
Music is perceived and consumed inside our brains and nobody knows if how you or I hear a single piece of music is consistent.
We know for certain that listening to music lights up huge areas of our brains - but that the patterns discernible through investigations with EEGs are different for different people. We also know that music and memory are inextricably linked - so we can deduce that when I hear a piece of music, particularly if I have heard it before, then my personal memories of when, where and how I first heard it will form a part of my understanding of it today.
So how can marketing people and corporations ever agree on a piece of music for a commercial or as part of their brand identity when in reality, they are all hearing and perceiving that single piece of music differently?
Over the years, I've seen a few patterns emerge in how decisions get made in this most subjective of areas. Here is one of them. I'll save others for a rainy day...
The Honey Bee Decision
Honey bees are clever little social creatures and the way they communicate with each other shows us one way corporations make decisions (on anything really but I'll focus on music).
In searching out new flowery hunting grounds senior bees are sent out into the world to do some fact finding. When each bee returns to the hive, it communicates the quality of the blooms it has discovered by doing a dance. So what you get after a major exploration day is a lot of bees, all dancing furiously in order to tell the rest of the bees that their discovery is worth a visit. Here's the clever and simple bit. The hive will only follow the bee that does the most elaborate and longest dance. In other words, the bee that bee-lieves (see what I did there?) the most in its own discovery will dance with more passion and fervent energy than any other and as a consequence, other bees will follow it to the flower-bed it is championing.
Over the years I have seen the bee dance in action. In corporations where passion and belief are usually in scarce supply, if one person - no matter their seniority in a group - is willing to jump up and down and wave their arms about for long enough they will often end up getting their own way. Others will follow simply because they don't have the personal belief or stamina to champion their own choices in the face of the long dance. The group ends up making a decision because of the conviction, confidence and willingness to stand up and be counted of a single member of the team.
Now for the bad news. In my experience, the person willing to do the dance is hardly ever the person championing the best option for the corporation - they usually champion the best option only for themselves. Where bees have no ego, unfortunately advertising and marketing people do. My advice? Beware the bee - and don't follow the dancer.
NB Agencies (like mine) are founded on their abilities to identify and select strategies for getting subjective work agreed and signed off by large groups. Do you feel used? Have I ever done the bee dance? Are all questions rhetorical?