NEW YORK, NY—Sonic branding was in the spotlight recently when the Audio Branding Academy, based in Hamburg, Germany, brought its third Audio Branding Congress to Columbia University in New York City, hosted and co-organized by Manhattan- based audio branding and music company, Expansion Team.
Alex Moulton, founder of Expansion Team, first experienced the congress last year when he presented a case study, a regular feature of the event. “I went to Hamburg and gave a case study about our branding work for CNN International. I just had a great time, and I realized it’s a community of people that’s as interested in hearing about our successes as our failures, sharing very honestly what we did that worked and what didn’t work, and what the client thought about it, and our best practices,” he says.
Moulton relates that he went without any preconceptions, expecting to meet a few like-minded individuals and maybe learn a few things. “It was not that at all; I was completely blown away. I left with my head so full of information, things that I had never thought about before—and this is something I think about every day.”
With the U.S. greatly under-represented at the congress, Moulton happily agreed to help organize this year’s event. “It was a huge conversation in Europe, and there were three Americans there last year. It’s not me being pro-American, but I felt that it was a conversation that needed to be brought here,” he explained.
Last year, the conversation centered on the future sound of the car, which is expected to be electric, of course. “There was a lot of discussion based around what happens when you take the engine out of a car, how will a car sound, how can we use sound to keep the same customer experience? What would a city be like if we had all electric cars; would we all get run over all of the time?”
This year, with smart phones and wireless tablets proliferating, the congress took the theme, “Stay connected, sound global,” and explored the subject of mobile media. “One of the things that we—the collective audiobranding world—think about is trying to make our world exist in harmony, so all of the sounds have their own place. We don’t want to live in a world where it’s a cacophony of brands trying to get our attention. At the same time, we’re also thinking about the way people consume media. Sometimes sound can be very powerful.”
Martyn Ware, formerly of U.K. electronic music pioneers the Human League and Heaven 17, presented the keynote this year on “The Future of Sonic Branding.” Aki Päivärinne, a Finnish composer, sound and interaction designer, wrote in a review of the event that Ware observed that sonic branding is growing rapidly with room for all sorts of specialization within the discipline. Indeed, a market survey presented by the Audio Branding Academy at the congress found that 67 percent of the market players believe that audio branding will strongly evolve in the next 10 years.
“[Ware] also presented a short case study on his recent project, West Street Story, where calming sounds and slowed-down pop music are played to a wild party street in Brighton…This project has resulted in reduced violence on the street. Mr. Ware also pointed out how sonic branding should not be only considered only as something for the business sector but also for the public sector.”
The case studies, a highlight for Moulton this year, comprised six finalists vying for the organization’s very first Audio Branding Award. “Both established audio-branding agencies, and the newer ones are finding creative ways to innovate and better connect with consumers,” he commented.
The winner, determined by a popular vote, was Germany’s audio consulting group for work with Swiss global financial services company UBS. Wilbert Hirsch of audio consulting group made a sufficiently convincing case that “wherever UBS is heard, it sounds like UBS.”
Moulton noted a number of potential organizers for 2012, including IV Group in Nashville, and a company in Brazil: “I’m hoping to pass the torch off to them.”
Audio Branding Academy