Mogo Man

Ran­jan Ka­pur and Sub­hash Ka­math are now part of the ad­vi­sory board of BrandMusiq, a sonic brand­ing out­fit. We in­ter­viewed Ra­jeev Raja, co-founder of the firm.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL - By Ash­wini Gan­gal ash­wini.gan­gal@afaqs.com

Sonic brand­ing. Does it work for mar­keters?

Ra­jeev: Close your eyes, lis­ten to this mu­sic. You’ll see some im­agery, it’ll trig­ger some mem­o­ries. Don’t try and an­a­lyse it. We’ll talk about these im­ages af­ter­wards.

Ra­jeev plays his fa­mous metal­lic flute for a few min­utes, while I do as told.

Ra­jeev: What did you see?

Me: I saw the Hi­malayas, green pas­tures, shep­herds, sheep and blue skies.

Ra­jeev: (smiles) That’s not by ac­ci­dent; it’s by de­sign.

What I heard was his com­po­si­tion built on a spe­cific scale - the ‘Ham­sad­hvani Raag’; ti­tled ‘peace’, it in­vari­ably evokes the kind of im­ages I saw in my mind’s eye while lis­ten­ing to it.

A new im­age pops into my mind now — of Ra­jeev play­ing his flute in a board­room, as 25 man­age­ment ex­ec­u­tives seated around a long ta­ble lis­ten. In Ra­jeev’s world, that’s what a client pitch looks like.

Af­ter spend­ing over two decades in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, Ra­jeev launched BrandMusiq, a sonic brand­ing agency, in 2012, along with the late J.S. Mani. His last ‘agency role’ was NCD, DDB Mu­dra, where his pet ac­count was Volk­swa­gen.

To­day, Ra­jeev runs BrandMusiq along with his busi­ness part­ner Ajit Varma. The client list in­cludes brands from both tra­di­tional and younger prod­uct groups: Stan­dard Char­tered Bank, Royal Chal­lenge, HDFC Bank, Hor­licks, TV18, Tata Salt, Won­der la, Ray­mond, Mc­Dow­ell’s No.1, Manipal Group, Myn­tra, Gold Flake and Croma.

The ad­vi­sory board of BrandMusiq com­prises: Ran­jan Ka­pur, coun­try man­ager, WPP In­dia, Loney Antony, MD, Hi­tachi Pay­ment Sys­tems, Ra­jesh Pa­tel, co-founder and CEO, Pow­er­weave, a soft­ware com­pany, and Sub­hash Ka­math, CEO and man­ag­ing part­ner, BBH In­dia.

Edited ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view with Ra­jeev Raja, co-founder, BrandMusiq, and flautist at ‘Ra­jeev Raja Com­bine’, his Indo-Jazz fu­sion band:

In 2015, you said and I quote, ‘It’s amaz­ing how brands don’t think about what their sound is...’ Do they now?

There has def­i­nitely been some

in­cre­men­tal aware­ness, but I wouldn’t say there’s been a sea change. Sound and sonic iden­tity have never been se­ri­ously thought of. But the me­dia space has changed. When I was at the peak of my (agency) ca­reer, tele­vi­sion had to be the pri­mary medium. To­day the con­sumer has four screens – smart­phone, lap­top, tele­vi­sion and mul­ti­plex. Imag­ine these screens with­out sound. To­day the im­por­tance of sound is all per­va­sive.

Clients pay a whole lot of money for a visual iden­tity. But with sound, the ap­proach is, ‘Acha, tele­vi­sion ad hai, let’s cre­ate a piece of mu­sic...’ That’s the equiv­a­lent of say­ing, ‘Acha, I am launch­ing a brand so let’s cre­ate a logo be­cause I need to put it in my print ad...’ Es­sen­tially, while a visual iden­tity is seen as strate­gic and en­dur­ing, a piece of mu­sic as­so­ci­ated with a brand is seen as tac­ti­cal and short term. If it catches on, the brand con­tin­ues to use it, but of­ten it be­comes like the Onida devil – a great prop­erty that every­one recog­nises, but you don’t know what part of the brand it’s re­ally ex­press­ing.

Sonic as­sets too should evolve with time; a brand can’t use a sound­scape cre­ated in the 1960s with con­tem­po­rary visual im­agery from the new mil­len­nium.

When you started out, you went to mar­ket with a ser­vice for which there was no de­mand; ed­u­cat­ing the po­ten­tial client about sonic brand­ing was a large part of the strug­gle. To­day, is there de­mand? Is there some such thing as a ‘Mogo brief’?

To­day, a lot of times when we meet clients and start pre­sent­ing, they say, ‘Don’t preach to the con­verted; we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of sonic brand­ing. Now show us what you’ve done...’ That’s progress. So yes, it is bet­ter to­day than it was when we started out. We’ve started get­ting cold calls. Clients are call­ing us and say­ing, ‘We want a Mogo’. That’s huge. The word Mogo is gain­ing cur­rency. But my dream is for the word ‘Mogo’ to be as ubiq­ui­tous as ‘USP’.

All the brands you work with have a cre­ative agency on board. Does your pres­ence in the room threaten them? And do brands ap­proach you through their agen­cies?

A lot of our clients come to us di­rectly… we hear di­rectly from the mar­ket­ing/brand man­age­ment (teams). When it’s a de­ci­sion of iden­tity (which sonic brand­ing is), you need a buy-in at the high­est level. So it’s im­por­tant for us to start right at the top. But once the brand own­ers buy into the con­cept, we urge them to bring all the as­so­ci­ated teams to­gether at the ear­li­est stage — cre­ative, dig­i­tal, event, me­dia plan­ners, strate­gic plan­ners...

I re­call, af­ter Vis­tara signed us on, we flew down to Delhi and spent two hours with the plan­ning and cre­ative teams at Ogilvy and pre­sented our creds and ap­proach... of course, the cre­ative team will have con­cerns and anx­i­eties; I’ve been on that side. For them it’s like, ‘Arey, here comes one more re­stric­tion!’ So we try and demon­strate to agen­cies how our pres­ence will not re­strict their work, but will make things eas­ier for them.

How so?

One of the prob­lems agen­cies have to­day – and I know this from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence – is un­cer­tainty about tak­ing a call on mu­sic. Clients re­act to the jin­gles they (agen­cies) make with state­ments like, ‘I don’t like it, but I don’t know why’. They say things like, ‘Yeh jum nahi raha hai...’

But our process clearly lays down the guidelines for the mas­ter sound (that is, the mogoscape or sonic palette – a 90-120 sec­ond long piece of mu­sic, which takes around three months to cre­ate) for the brand.

Brands are mov­ing from overt com­mu­ni­ca­tion to sub­tle ex­pe­ri­ences. Agen­cies look at brands more from a com­mu­ni­ca­tion sense, not so much from an ex­pe­ri­en­tial sense. With our ex­per­tise, agen­cies can con­sid­er­ably en­hance their of­fer­ing to clients. That’s why we pre­fer to go to clients di­rectly...

… as op­posed to go­ing to clients through their agen­cies, you mean?

Yes, (if we go through the agency) what hap­pens is – you then try to match the sound for a tele­vi­sion spot or a ra­dio spot. But that’s not what we’re do­ing. We cre­ate me­dia-neu­tral sound for brands. We go be­yond con­ven­tional me­dia aper­tures like tele­vi­sion. We’re look­ing at sound in pack­ag­ing, re­tail sound, and UX and UI sound de­sign. Once we cre­ate the mas­ter sound, we adapt it across dif­fer­ent me­dia.

But do clients re­ally see your ser­vice as one that’s sep­a­rate from the TVC or do many still look at it as an add-on to the TVC, which you in­sist it isn’t?

There are brands that are still heav­ily de­pen­dent on TVCs, like FMCG and food brands, so some­times, they do tend to see it through the fil­ter of the TVC... there is a ‘TVC syn­drome’ in In­dia. Be­cause it’s an emerg­ing cat­e­gory, it’s im­por­tant to be able draw a clear line back to ROI. We are look­ing at cre­at­ing a model for sonic au­dit very se­ri­ously. Data an­a­lyt­ics will be a large part of this. Brands are now be­gin­ning to see value in the neuro-test­ing of sound, some­thing they did only for TVCs so far. ■

Ra­jeev Raja: on a mu­si­cal note

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