Two kinds of people exist in India today. One who just love the new Tata DoCoMo jingle and the second who lie about it and say they don’t. (There might be a marginal third lot who genuinely dislikes the tune – as I am sure I will soon discover in the comments section of this post – but I think those guys are lying…;)) I myself belonged to the latter category… before I realised that I was really lying.

Consumer oriented brands have long relied on the aural medium to create memorable brands… a highly evolved branch of branding known as “Sound Mnemonics”. I will take a few names and see if the tune pops into your head:

Intel

Nokia

Nirma (?)

Reliance Telecom

Airtel

Microsoft Windows

Motorola

THX

McDonalds

Philips

Samsung

LG

Titan Watches

I am sure you know more than half of those tunes… I know I did. To find the true power of audio branding I quizzed a the toughest customer of all – my 5 1/2 year old son. Here is how the interview went (more or less)

Grimescene: Dhruv, do you know what DoCoMo is?
Dhruv (without taking his eyes off a former GI Joe, he was in the middle of performing a lobotomy on): Hmmm, I think so…
Grimescene: What is it?
Dhruv (irritably abandoning his brain surgery): “Tu Du Du…”?
Grimescene: Pardon?
Dhruv (probably questioning his genes): “Tu Du Du… Tu Du Du…” (following it up with the entire milieu of Tu’s and Du’s)
Grimescene: Ok…that is the DoCoMo song…but what is it?
Dhruv (getting ready to wield the imaginary scalpel again): A Train.
Grimescene: Ok…do you know what Reliance is?
Dhruv: No
Grimescene: Airtel?
Dhruv (eyes turn upwards for a couple of seconds): No
Grimescene (trying a different tact) starts humming the Reliance tune. (atleast his version of it)
Dhruv (eyes widen with instant recognition): That is Airtel.
Grimescene (suddenly confused): I thought that was Reliance.
Dhruv: No Dad! It is Airtel. (proceeding to hum the tune to its entirety – including the SMS beeps at the end.)
Grimescene (not trusting his failing memory – and because he couldn’t on his life remember the Airtel tune) opens up the internet and searches for the Airtel tune. And finally when both listened to the (beautiful) Airtel tune – all confusion was cleared.

End Result for Tunes: Docomo – 3 points, Reliance – 2 points and Airtel (inspite of being the most beautiful tune) – 1 point. But if the brands were to be stacked up in the eyes of a 5 year old – Airtel would probably trump Reliance. (Hope the Telecom guys are listening – today’s 5 year olds are tomorrow’s 8 year olds with a mobile provider preference.)

So what is the power that a few notes can have on us? First of all, I think that sound is probably a more primitive (and hence more primal) medium for humans. Second, the visual medium, because of shorter pathways to the brain and memory, has been slightly over used since the advent of mass media. Our poor brains are constantly processing images, colours, designs etc… so much so that companies will find it easier to wedge their way into our memories through a few simple notes – as is the case with DoCoMo.

This gives me a vision of the future where each of us will carry our own unique audio tune… where whenever we would introduce ourselves, it would follow with a small jingle through embedded speakers in our watch/bag/spectacle. How’s that for a future business area for aspiring musicians? Hurry! Book your tune now!

Meanwhile, for jobless readers who want to know more about Sonic Mnemonics… watch this! 😉

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