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Insight: Exploring the present and future of sound in building brand identity with Syn

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — “Can you recognize a brand with your eyes closed?” This is how Nick Wood, the CEO and Creative Director of Syn Music, starts the discussion on sonic branding.

Last week, adobo magazine gathered industry experts to discuss the topic of building brand identity through sonic branding. The roundtable discussion dissected what sonic branding is, and explored how it’s being used by brands and agencies.

For Wood, sonic branding is, essentially, the sound of the brand. But aside from Wood, Syn’s Creative Development Director Benji Compston, GIGIL’s Creative Partner Herbert Hernandez, Global Vice President for Brand and CEO of Shell Brands International Dean Aragon, and BBDO Guerrero’s Creative Chairman David Guerrero also shared their insights on the matter as well.


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While brand recognition is part of what sonic branding is trying to achieve, for Compston, the sound of a brand holds a practical purpose as well. In the case of Netflix, once you hear its iconic “ta-dum,” you know exactly that you’ll be watching something soon.

And for Aragon, it’s all about connecting with your consumers. “You want to connect with people who have a relationship with your brand,” he says. “And you have to play in — forgive the analogy — the full piano. Not just sight, not just texture, but also sound.”

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But it wasn’t always like this. When Wood first started Syn way back in 1991, brands mostly used jingles. But with the rise of technology and digital, sonic branding has developed into a very sophisticated way of connecting a brand with its audience.

The rise of digital, according to Hernandez, has democratized everything so people’s standards have become higher. It is also this exposure that Aragon believes makes it harder for brands to be preferred.

So for a sound to be a distinctive component of a brand, Aragon says it needs to be applied consistently and faithfully — it’s going to have to be a constitutional aspect of the brand strategy.

But how does a music-first approach affect the overall campaign?

“Well, our job is to work with Dean, Herbert and David to understand the story,” says Wood. “…to provide some emotion and some connection with the audience.”

And this is exactly what Syn did with BBDO Guerrero. The two collaborated to create the music for the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT). For a campaign that encourages travelers to stay at home, dream, and wake up in the Philippines.

“We wanted a piece of music to link together 16 individual regional films for each region of the country,” shares Guerrero. “And so I discussed at a really early stage with Nick and we talked about having a piece familiar to people, but are not owned by anyone. And as we found such a song which was free to use called Beautiful Dreamer.”

“And we wanted it to have authentic sounds. We wanted it to have local relevance,” says Wood. “But we were also delivering this to the global stage because it’s obviously designed to bring people to the Philippines… so we had to literally make 16 different music arrangements of Beautiful Dreamer.”

It was also during the process of making Beautiful Dreamer for the DOT campaign that Wood said it was important to have local input in it, so they hired local musicians to play traditional Filipino instruments. And this isn’t the first time Syn is working with Filipinos, because they already had their presence in the Philippines by way of PixelBox.

Tapping the Philippines’ creative industry

“I think one reason Syn wanted to work in the Philippines is that you’re a renowned musical loving nation,” Wood says. “You want to go to countries with culture that embodies everything we love about music… So yeah, it was purely a relationship of passion and shared love of music and sound.”

And Syn recently partnered with Xiklab, a digital marketing company in the Philippines, to host a composer competition to help displaced Filipino musicians.

Speaking of his experience working with Xiklab, Compston shares, “It was amazing to hear the huge diversity of talent in the Philippines… We had an opportunity to listen to incredible musicians from the region and I think that’s very important to bring local authenticity to any work in the region.”

Talks of further working with Filipinos was brought up. And to tap the Philippines’ creative industry further, the panelists talked about Indierectory, a platform created by GIGIL to help agencies and companies connect with advertising independents in the country.

Hernandez, one of the co-creators of Indirectory, shared his thoughts about working with Syn in the future: “This is an opportunity to create wonderful, world class music in terms of crafting… Syn really did a great job producing great music and sonic branding so this should really excite talents here in the Philippines.”

The future of sonic branding

To wrap up the discussion, the panelists were then asked about their thoughts on the future of sonic branding. For Guerrero, he thinks agencies need to raise their consciousness of sonic branding and to make time for it so they can make something radical. “The more we can open up to the possibilities of sound, then can we start to appreciate what we can do with it. It’s gonna make it make our lives a lot richer.”

For Hernandez, he believes musicians should feel free to inject something the brand did not know to address their objectives. “Don’t think of making a jingle,” he continues. “It should serve the idea, and what kind of music will help bring out the idea… Just feel free to put yourself on it.”

The Syn Founders

And for Wood and Compston, they believe sonic branding will improve lives as it explores different areas, and will connect brands better with people by way of authenticity.

“I think it’s going to take on many different new areas… Sonic branding has to have a story. It has to have authenticity, and it has to connect in some way with the brand we’re working with,” Wood shares. “…It has to have substance and it has to connect the brand’s DNA with the consumer.”

“I completely agree…” says Compston. “I think there’s an opportunity for sonic branding to really improve our lives and the way that we engage with brands and engage with content.”

Watch the live stream on demand on YouTube and Facebook.

To know more about Syn Music, please reach out to:

  • Florence Turq, Global Business and Creative Development Head:
  • Joy Perez, Creative Development:

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