Uli Reese, President, iV2, Germany

Uli Reese web

A shark attack changed your life.
Well, it wasn’t an actual shark attack… that was meant in the literal sense. When I was a kid, “Jaws” hit the big screen, and I was so mesmerized by the cinematography and, in particular, the powerful soundtrack of the film that I decided there and then that I wanted to become a film composer. So a film about monster sharks basically shaped my professional and my personal life, and it triggered in me the drive to become a film composer, which led me all the way to Hollywood.

You worked for a range of popular television series, including “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Walt Disney’s “The Goof Troop”, and also for brands like Nike and BMW. So there’s definitely various genres and clients in different industries represented. How is music important for brand recognition?
Well – you mentioned it yourself. The world of branding is just as big as the world of music. In order to combine the two strategically, you have to be able to listen, first and foremost. There’s no point in creating an audio branding strategy that doesn’t fit a brand’s history, its character, its champions, its audience. Before drafting a strategy and entering the creative phase, there’s a lot of homework to be done. Analyze at the brand’s customer base. Look at the brand’s past, who shaped it, study what the brand has put out communication-wise over the last decades. And listen to the brand’s founders, if possible, or the brand managers, learn about their vision, their passion for the brand they are working for. Finally, you’ll have to become very aware of the brand’s communication channels and its diverse touch points with its audience. Only then will you be able to uncover the brand’s very own, unique voice. In short: Translating the brand into sound.

How do clients and brands feel about music in terms of its marketing potential?
Although things have changed a lot over the last few years, I find that a lot of insecurity prevails when it comes to music. Quite often, brands and their agencies simply aren’t aware of the power the right sound can achieve for their brand’s bottom line. Sometimes they feel that their brand’s audio communication isn’t what it could be, but they don’t know how to tackle it. Which isn’t necessarily their fault. The branding and advertising industry is short-lived and has to serve a digitized society with increasingly shorter attention spans. There is little and less time to sit down and talk long-term strategy. I’m doing my best to raise awareness for a strategic approach to audio in brand communication, however, in talking to industry leaders, to put sound and music back on their agenda. I’ve just published a book, “101 Great Minds on Music, Brands and Behavior”, where I interview some of this world’s most creative minds on the topic, and I’m currently working on the 2nd edition of the book. I also frequently speak at major international festivals of creativity, including Cannes, Eurobest and ADC, to reach out and open the eyes – and ears! – of decision-makers at brands and agencies.

How important is the audio medium in relation to other medium?
Well. It’s extremely important. Sound is everywhere – you can’t close your ears to it. Our sense of hearing is one of the first senses a fetus develops inside the womb – and it’s part of the first points of contact it has to the outside world. We’re very much constantly, subconsciously influenced by sounds, by the voices of the people around us, and, last but not least, by music. Music can trigger emotions in us, it can trigger memories, and it can trigger associations. It’s such a powerful tool. If you think about what a film would be without music – it’d go as far as saying that music and sound easily make up to 50 percent - or more! - of a piece of communication.

How can music impact consumers behavior? What is the psychological connection?
In an ideal world, a brand’s audio communication – its voice, be it the music used in ads, on-hold music, viral communication, voice-overs, and so on – is almost like the trusted voice of a friend. You’ve known it for a while, you remember it, you know subconsciously that you can rely on it, it’s unique. Once brands achieve that level of consumer recall and consumer trust, they can be certain that it will have an impact on the brand’s bottom line. Consumer buying decisions are not made consciously, but subconsciously. While our ears have a direct connection to our heads, they also have a direct connection to our hearts. That’s the key to a successful audio communication strategy, and it will lead to an increased ROI.

Did the rise of digital media influence the connection between brands and music?
Without a doubt. The amount of audio touch points nowadays compared to just ten years ago is mind-boggling. With every new app, every new device that is released onto the market, with every new communication channel that appears and with every single new technology that is developed, the opportunities for brands to speak to their consumers increase exponentially. This can all be confusing and it’s difficult to keep up with it all. It also creates a very present need for brands to streamline their audio communication, because otherwise it will seem as if they speak in a multitude of voices – causing the consumer to feel the brand is still in search of its identity. That’s where we as audio branding experts come in, to help organize and manage this new landscape.

In the book "101 Great Minds on Music, Brands and Behaviour" you published in 2015 you investigated the strategic vs. tactical use of music in brand communications. What would your two main findings be? Which collocutor impressed you the most?
I found that the majority of my interview subjects agreed that the decision-making processes around music in branding and advertising are arbitrary and subjective, with little means to quantify the results. They agreed that music is an afterthought rather than a strategic means of building a brand. Overall, the study showed an overwhelming consensus on a central observation: The industry’s way of using audio in branding and advertising is profoundly flawed and inefficient – all of this despite the fact that the data shows that within the mix, music is one of the most important – if not the most important – ingredient in effective and resounding audio-visual brand communication. A shift needs to happen – from a short-term, campaign-driven, tactical approach to a more strategic, long-term approach in the use of audio. As for the range of my interviewees, the one conversation that really stuck out for me was my interview with Dr. Christian Scheier, a neuropsychologist and neuromarketer. The level to which he understands multisensory marketing and its impact on the human mind and body is amazing. If you read my interview with him, you’ll understand – he talks about how music is basically a meta-language, one that transfers meaning without having to say anything. It’s a magical tool for brands that really understand how to use it.

In the book Amir Kassaei said: "It’s not about the right sound or the right piece of music. It’s about the strategic question 'What should my brand sound like?'" What do you think about his statement, how can one brand answer this question?
Amir’s quote is one of my favorite quotes in the book, because he really sums up what I preach all the time. People tend to think what we audio brand strategists want brands to do is to get a jingle and use it in their TV ads. But that’s very far from the reality. Audio branding has evolved substantially. Some of the most sophisticated audio brands out there have very subtle, but very efficient audio branding – and they don’t even use a logo! – Apple, for example. Depending on the size of the company, the industry, B2B or B2C, the communication channels, and so on… audio branding strategies can be tailored according to the needs of every brand. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s about carefully and skillfully uncovering the brand’s own unique voice – it’s not about throwing 3-5 random notes at them.

What would be your message to Golden Drum delegates?
I’m looking forward to connecting to the festival participants, and I’m hoping they are full of curiosity and have plenty of questions they can throw at me! I’m delighted to be a part of the festival and to be talking about my favorite topic: Music.

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