The Sound of Business – Part I I

Creating a ‘kick ass’ Sonic Personality© for your business requires that
your business have a personality in the first place. Of course every
business has one, whether you are aware of it or not, and this is a real
danger. Your customers’ understanding of who you are, and what you
do, as a business, may be very different from the vision you have of
yourself. This can be a very serious problem for owner-managed
businesses, where the personality of the entrepreneur oft times gets
substituted for the personality of the business – big mistake! So what’s
the first step in crafting a marketable business personality?

What Business Are you Really In?

OK kids, its story time. Back in the day, the railroad barons were the
most powerful business leaders in the country. They had the money, the
power, and the political ‘shlep’ (that’s drag for the uninitiated) to do pretty
much whatever they wanted. Today railroads are a depressed industry.
So what happened? Simple, they didn’t know what business they were
really in.

If you could have asked Leland Stanford or Collis P. Huntington, what
business they were in, they would have most likely answered, ‘the
railroad business’. And in the long run, that was their downfall. Instead,
they should have thought of themselves as being in ‘the transportation
business’ and if they did, they surely would have used their money,
power, and influence to control the emerging automobile, trucking, and
airline industries.

Before you can craft a Sonic Personality© you first must understand who
you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the other guy. If you
can answer those three questions clearly, then you have the beginning
of a coherent business personality that must exist before you can have a
Sonic Personality©.

Focus On One Core Value

One of the hardest things for entrepreneurial businesses to do is to
focus on one core value. This may sound, on the surface, to be contrary
to the lesson learned from the railroad barons, but it isn’t. Your core
value focus has to be broad enough to be able to sustain your business
through the onslaught of competition and fast moving technological
change. When the railroad barons focused on just one form of
transportation they let all the other transportation opportunities slip
through their fingers and ultimately overtake them.

Most accountants and bankers will tell you to ‘stick to your knitting’ and
not let yourself be spread too thin with secondary initiatives. This is
generally good advice, however there is a fundamental difference
between going off on a tangent and sticking to your core values.
Knowing who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the
competition will help you keep your focus while at the same time allow
you to critically determine whether new opportunities are ones that you
should pursue.

Create Definition: Lift and Separate

So far I have managed to avoid using the term, brand, because it is
generally misunderstood and ignored by most owner-managed
businesses. Substituting ‘personality’ for ‘brand’ puts the notion of brand
in context. Think about it. You may have thought your business doesn’t
relate to branding concepts, but you’ve accepted, or at least are
intrigued by the idea, that your business needs a clearly defined
personality.

Al Ries and Jack Trout have written numerous books on branding and
marketing, including ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” One of the
lessons to be learned from this book is ‘The Law of Opposites’. Simply
stated, unless you’re the ‘top dog’ in your industry, you have to define
who you are in contrast to the industry leader. This is not dissimilar to
The Theory of Contrary Thinking.

The example sometimes used to explain The Theory of Contrary
Thinking is Tulip Mania. When tulips were first introduced to Holland in
the middle to late sixteenth century, people fell in love with them. By the
early 1600s, an exchange market had been created that dealt with tulip
futures. Similar to what happen in the Roaring 20s, everyone got
involved in purchasing tulip futures for ridiculous prices, until some wise
guy yelled SELL! Panic set-in and like in the 1920s, the market
collapsed. The moral of the story is simple; if everyone is doing it, you
better do the opposite.

By defining your business in contrast to the industry leader, you create a
separate and distinct business personality that gives your audience an
alternative to the ‘big guy’. You no longer are a second banana ‘wannbe’
imitator, but rather a distinctive company with your own image,
strengths, advantages and of course, personality.

Customers Are An Audience

Finally, this distinctive personality needs to be communicated to your
audience, and you’ll notice I’ve called your customers an audience,
because that is exactly what they are. If you think in terms of audience, it
will open up a whole new understanding of communication techniques
and media, that will lead to better audience recognition, acceptance,
and ultimately sales. Now we have to give your finely crafted personality
a voice. Tune-in next time for ‘How to Give Good Sonic Personality©.’

Make Sleeping a Thing of the Past With the Geemarc Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock

The shrill sound of the morning alarm is one that fills most of us with dread. We all wish that we could have that extra few minutes in the warm comfort of our beds before dragging ourselves from underneath the duvet to face the world for another day.

Some people are good at getting up, and the promise of a new day is enough to make them rise and shine early, without the need for an alarm. For others, however, this is not as easy, with one or more alarms needed to help wake them from their slumber.

In the most extreme cases, the deepest sleepers amongst us need to be physically woken. This is where Geemarc’s new Sonic Bomb alarm comes in handy. With its built-in supercharged bed shaker, this turbo-charged, extra-loud alarm has been designed with not just the lazy, but also the hearing impaired in mind. Before this new innovation, a traditional alarm clock was of no use to the deaf and hard of hearing. Now they never need to worry about sleeping in again.

Developed in the United States, the Sonic Bomb is part Geemarc’s new Sonic Alert series, produced by the American company of the same name who specialise in producing products designed to help those who are hard of hearing. Geemarc are exclusive distributors of the sonic alert alarm clock range here in the UK.

Sonic Alert

Sonic Alert began when the company’s founder, Adam Kollin wanted to help his hard of hearing grandmother to see when people were calling at her house, as she couldn’t hear the doorbell. What he devised, was a system which involved flashing lights all around the house, which illuminated when anybody rang the doorbell or telephone. This early system proved to be a great success, prompting Kollin to go into business producing similar products.

Although the system he produced for his Grandmother was handy, it involved a complex system of wires and took almost a week to install. Kollin realised the value of the system but also that it would be much more marketable as a product if it was wireless and easy to install. After 2 years of development, he came up with the first Sonic Alert System, and was awarded a patent for this unique design. Since then, the company has grown to produce a series of products to help those with hearing and other impairments.

The Sonic Bomb alarm clock is currently available from BigBoxShop.co.uk priced at £23.50

The Rise and Rise of the Sonic Logo

A logo is not a brand, but it has an important role to play in branding: it instantly represents the brand’s character, introducing us if we’re not acquainted or reminding us if we’re old friends. A logo is like a photograph – not the real thing, but a good reminder. Logos have been so effective that every company has at least one – which is where the problems begin.

I call the problem ‘over messaging’. Each of us now encounters a staggering 30,000 commercial messages every single day, and the vast majority of them are visual. This means that for the next few years at least, sonic logos – by which I mean short sonic mnemonics that are the exact audio counterparts of the visual logo – are going to be worth considering simply because they are relatively rare and can thus act as powerful differentiators. However there’s more to sonic logos than curiosity value alone: used wisely, they work exceptionally well. The also go back much further than you might think.

Sonic logos have actually been around for hundreds of years: street calling used to be the main way tradesmen advertised their services, as wonderfully romanticised in the film Oliver. It’s only a few decades since that practice ended: I can remember the ‘rag-and-bone’ man’s mournful shout of “anyoldiron?” from my childhood in London. The modern-day equivalent is the ice cream van: just watch the cathartic effect of its chimes on surrounding buildings on a hot summer’s day to see the potency of sonic logos deployed in the right place at the right time. Most ice cream chimes are generic, but in Sweden the Hemglass ice cream tune is a universally known and loved sonic brand.

As soon as the advertising industry got sound to play with, it saw the potential of memorable music/voice combinations and the jingle and tagline were born. The dividing line between jingle or a tagline an a sonic logo is blurred. In general, jingles and taglines come and go with campaigns and rarely live for more than a few years. Even the most memorable usually get retired. “For hands that do dishes…”; “It’s the real thing”; these and many more once-mighty jingles or taglines are now languishing in retirement homes, though the brands are still very much with us today.

Some taglines have become sonic logos through sheer memorability. One in particular has outlasted entire generations of customers: Tony the tiger has been saying “they’re gr-r-r-r-reat!” since 1951. This is probably the longest-running sonic logo in the world, and it has now outlived its voice-over artist. Thurl Ravenscroft voiced many Disney characters but Tony was his greatest achievement. He was Tony’s voice for over 50 years until his death in 2005; today, Lee Marshall carries the baton.

Some of the most successful sonic logos have even been registered as trademarks: the roar of the MGM lion and the old NBC three-tone chime are two examples.

These examples notwithstanding, it wasn’t until the 1990s that sonic logos started to be taken really seriously and their use considered by many major brands. The sea change came with Intel. Its four-note sonic logo, composed by Austrian musician Walter Werzowa, has become one of the best-known sounds in the world, and has spearheaded Intel’s extraordinary success as a brand – given that this is a product nobody ever sees and nobody ever buys.

Today, sonic logos are more in play then ever before. UK insurance giant Direct Line has a sprightly bugle call, which speaks volumes about urgency, assistance and playfulness in just three seconds. Apple has its comforting, uplifting start-up sound, engineered in 1991 by Jim Reekes and still shipping 16 years later. (It is inexplicable that the mighty Microsoft has never seen the value of a single start-up sound; the sound of Windows has changed with every successive version of the software, so that now there is no sound of Windows. They may be learning through: huge amounts of time and money were invested in ‘a language of sounds’ for the Xbox 360.) Lufthansa has invested in a corporate sound, comprising four rising tones that are aimed to convey feelings of taking off and wellbeing. Siemens has recently added a seventh element to its branding: sound has now joined logo, claim, typeface, colours, layout and style as one of the basic building blocks of the Siemens brand. The company has created both an ‘audio signature’ (aka a sonic logo) and also some mood sound as part of its new palette. Even political parties are joining in: Wales’s Plaid Cymru has a short sonic logo to welcome you in peace and harmony to its website.

The evidence is that more and more major brands are creating a sonic logo as a matter of course. With the continuing rise of mobile devices (along with custom ring tones and downloaded digital sound) I believe we have not yet scratched the surface of the sonic logo.

Is it time your brand found its voice – before your competitors find theirs?