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Why developing consistent brand character is so important

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

This post is the fifth in a series of interviews with experts in branding and sonic branding. This time we have captured the thoughts of Simon Thong an expert in brand strategy and founder of the Revel Consultancy.

Simon Thong expert brand strategy - SoundOut
Simon Thong expert brand strategy - SoundOut

Why did you set up Revel?

I wanted to help companies solve business problems in a way that is engaging and fun and that helped people to learn something along the way. By gamifying problem solving I want to help companies get more creative answers to their most challenging problems. Because of my background in brand strategy with Nestle and Unilever, the most common challenge I am asked to help solve is how to make a brand interesting and get noticed.

Many marketeers don’t describe their brand in a way that is interesting and instead focus on qualities like being trustworthy and authentic. While these are fine qualities, they are not enough to make the brand distinctive. Just like a good story needs good characters to make it a best seller, a good brand needs good character to make it engaging and distinctive. So, I help brands ask what is the character of the brand, and how do we bring that character to life?

In your foreword to the Personality Report you say: “Emotion trumps function when it comes to getting people’s attention.” How important do you think music will be for triggering an emotional connection with brands?

I think music has an incredibly powerful impact on our psyche. Just this morning I read a really interesting article on the BBC about Riki Bleau the founder of a breakthrough record label. In the article Riki explains why he called the record label he co-founded with Glyn Aikins, Since '93: "You see I was 14 years-old in 1993. I think that's the age at which you start to choose your own identity, and in part you do it through music."

So, I think music can make a big difference in landing the key emotion for an advert. And music is critical in shaping the right character impression. My advice to marketeers is not to select a music track that conveys the right personality until you’ve worked out if you can afford it! It may be better to compose your own music but then you need to sure there will be a good match with the brand character or personality.

What stands out for you in the way that SoundOut measures the role of music in brand personality?

I don’t know any other company who can robustly, scientifically and quantitatively capture the personality of music. SoundOut enables brands to access a consumer-driven, quantitative sample to identify genuine personality traits linked to music. Personality traits can apply to visuals, music, and a host of other assets. It is a powerful advantage to be able to correlate all those assets with your brand personality.

You quoted the 2020 Ipsos study and the importance of audio in the foreword. Where would you advise clients to focus their brand personality investment today. Should they focus more on audio or visual assets?

I wouldn’t advise people to compartmentalise it like that. The most important thing is to identify the personality you want to land. Then you can decide how to develop content that lands that personality. I think you want both audio and visual content to work. However, the Ipsos study showed that when brands have developed good audio assets, audio is more effective at getting brands recognised.

I believe good advertising is good storytelling. So, I recommend marketeers think about the story they want their music choice to tell. The Jaws music, Darth Vader’s music and the difference between the music assigned to Anna and Elsa in Frozen all tell different stories. And the music and visuals combine in such a way that you can’t separate audio and images.

The thing to get right is the match between the personality of the content created and the personality of the brand. Because of SoundOut’s depth of data about the impact of music, they can advise on the right melody and instrumentation to choose so that it tells a story that helps people to engage.

SoundOut is working with Goldsmiths to look at whether music increases the propensity to purchase. If a causal link is proven, do you think marketeers should look at investing more in music?

The simple answer is yes because brands are always looking for ways to encourage people to spend more. But there are some important considerations if you are planning on using music in adverts. Will the music increase the appeal of the advert? Will the brand become more recognisable in future adverts if you use the same music or melodic versions of the same music? It’s important to think about both because you don’t want to increase sales as a one-off if it doesn’t also increase recognition and create a stronger bond with the brand.

At what point in the development of a brand asset would you recommend brands test to ensure a good personality match?

I think there are two moments when you should test. One is when you are about to spend a lot of money. It makes sense to test the appeal and character of the content before you spend big. This will identify if what you are about to launch has genuine appeal and if it maintains consistent equity for the brand. The second moment is to track what people’s image or perception of a brand might be after the asset has been in use for a while.

What song or music represents Revel’s brand?

Because Revel helps brands transform, solve problems and have fun doing it, our character would reflect the Magician and Jester archetypes. So, I guess a number of songs could be a good fit, such as: Queen’s it’s a kind of magic, David Bowie’s Changes or walking on sunshine by Katrina and the waves. But purely from a personal point of view, and unrelated to the Revel “brand”, my favourite album is probably The Bends by Radiohead.

If you had one piece of advice for brands to ensure they convey the right personality for their brand, what would it be?

As I mentioned earlier, I recommend you are more choiceful about the character you want your brand to project. And then you ensure that all you brand assets consistently convey that character.

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