Cindy Gallop began her early career in the UK as a theater publicist, until an audience member declared that she could "sell ice to an Eskimo," and advised her to make the jump to advertising. Four years later, she joined one of the fastest growing agencies in Europe, Bartle Bogle Hegarty. In 1998, she moved to New York and began building their US branch. In 2005, Gallop resigned as chairman of BBH to work as a consultant in branding and advertising. Along the way, she launched MakeLoveNotPorn at TED 2009, in an attempt to squash the myths of hardcore pornography and to begin a dialogue around how real people have sex. Also, in January 2010, Gallop launched IfWeRanTheWorld, a web platform designed to bring together human good intentions and corporate good intentions to turn them into collective action.

Reese: Most brands and agencies look at music merely as a tactical tool for storytelling. Very few use music as a strategic means for brand-building. Why is that?

Uli Reese, Cindy Gallop on Sound branding, advertising in music, audio branding, sound identity

Gallop: Because they’re not thinking about it in the right way. If you ask people “What is the sound of your brand?” nobody can answer that question. The process of thinking about the actual sound of your brand could be such a great creative exercise, an opportunity for a really fantastic auditory brainstorming, but nobody ever does it. I would like to see a scenario where in the same way that you identify, very importantly, what your brand’s core values are, you also consider every scenario in which somebody encounters your brand: What does it look like, feel like, and what does it sound like? Ideally, the audio component should be a part of that first stage – but it rarely is.

I have very good example for that. I am the chair of a CRC, a “campaign review committee,” at the Advertising Council, a U.S. non-profit that brokers public service announcement (PSA) campaigns between non-profits, client brands who sponsor the PSAs, and agencies volunteering to do that work pro bono. As chairs, we are charged with reviewing every PSA campaign at the strategy stage, the creative stage, and the execution stage. The Ad Council does an amazing job negotiating to get media for free to run these campaigns: They ask TV stations for their air time, they ask magazines to donate pages, and, very importantly, they ask radio stations to donate free radio advertising airtime. Only our industry despises radio - very mistakenly so, because radio is a colossally effective medium. It’s enormously powerful particularly in the U.S., but it’s powerful in every country in the world. Radio is an integral part of any commuter’s drive time. It’s an integral part of many workplaces, where workers are not allowed any other distraction but the factory floor will have the radio on in the background.

And yet, radio advertising is an afterthought for every campaign. Everybody focuses on the TV first, then print, and then the exciting web ideas… radio is the afterthought. It reflects in the presentations of creative work that ad agencies make to the Ad Council. And it frustrates me, because I have always been a major champion of radio. During my time at BBH in London, we created an amazingly successful campaign for a new chocolate bar at the time, Cadbury Boost. We built a huge brand for it, using just radio. It was slightly accidental in the sense that Cadbury’s had allocated a very small budget to Boost. But due to our phenomenal radio campaign featuring a couple of UK comedy stars, Cadbury’s sold vast amounts of the bar, and the campaign received a lot of awards. It’s an absolute testament for the power of radio in being able to build a brand.

Reese: It moves audio into a more strategic realm…

Gallop: But it also makes you think completely differently, creatively. In my role as the CRC chair, I tell agencies: “When you develop the campaign for this great cause, do me a favor. Start with radio. Come up with a big idea for radio. And then take it out to every other medium. I want to see what happens when you start with the sound of your idea.” Radio – audio – is a medium that requires you to think completely differently about how you bring an idea to life. All too often, I see TV script shoved into an audio context. Which doesn’t work, by the way. Start with audio, start with the requirement to bring the brand to life, to execute a big idea only through your ears. It backs into the overall point I’m making, which is: What is the sound of your brand? Start there, and sound will become a fundamental component of everything you build for the brand from the ground up.

Reese: If the CMO or the CEO of a big company approached you and asked you to help them develop their brand’s own audio identity, in a strategic way. How should they go about it? What would you advise them to do?

Gallop: First of all, ask yourself, “Where can I hear our brand?” Depending on the nature of your company, and your product, and the services you offer, your consumer hears your brand everywhere that brand exists. Let’s say you’re a bank: Your consumer hears your brand the moment they walk into that branch office. Your consumer hears your brand the moment they pick up the phone and call your customer service. Your consumer hears your brand the moment they access you online. And if the answer you give me is, “They don’t hear anything,” then that’s what’s wrong. Because what your consumers hear will make them feel instantly different about who you are.

Reese: I’ve often heard people say they think there’s too much noise out there already.

Gallop: Historically, there has been a presumption that notifications are aggravating. That being notified every time something happens, when you do something, is annoying. But it’s not! Because in today’s digital world of social media, the way notifications operate, you could call them “little pellets of love.” I read that expression in a blog somewhere, and I find it very fitting. When we are notified that somebody likes our post on Facebook, it’s a little “pellet of love.” When we are notified that somebody has accepted our friend request, it’s a little “pellet of love.” The digital world, the social media world, has made notifications welcome. And when those notifications arrive on your smartphone, you hear them. You hear this one little noise telling you that you have received a little “pellet of love.” The overall action point I’m trying to make to brands is: Imagine that you can notify your consumers of things that have happened in a way that is welcome and wanted. Imagine the sound of the “little pellets of love” arriving. Imagine delivering what you deliver, with an accompanying sound that makes it even better.

Reese: What do you think of audio logos? Like Intel, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, and so on…

Gallop: Oh, when they are successful, they are fantastic. Sound as mnemonic is enormously powerful. Everybody should get to that point. You are very lucky to have a sound signature, an audio mnemonic, where the moment somebody hears it, they know it’s your brand. That’s fantastic.

Reese: There are strong audio brands out there that don’t use any audio logo at all - like Apple. They follow a strict audio style guide for their notification sounds, product sounds, and so on. Yet they don’t use a mnemonic as such.

Gallop: Apple doesn’t need an audio signature, because it’s enormously powerful in every other way. The time may come where they rethink that. But the really important thing is that you know the sound of your brand.

Reese: When I ask you whether you think audio can change consumer behavior, I’m guessing I know your answer – the answer is yes.

Gallop: Absolutely.

Reese: So my next question would be: How does it change behavior?

Gallop: Music is one of the most emotional experiences known to man. Anyone can testify to that. All you have to do is to hear the opening chords of a song that meant everything to you back in your teenage years, and you’re right back at that moment. Music strategy for brands, however, is in its infancy. The marketing and advertising industry has not even begun to leverage the tools the digital world can already offer us. Think of Pandora, which came out of the music genome project: A project designed to literally examine the DNA of music, using algorithms that identify what makes up particular tracks that people respond to. Our industry is spectacularly failing at taking advantage of that. What it should be doing is to take the core values of a brand, identify how to interpret those in sound, set a core sound DNA for the brand, which then guides the musical approach to every possible soundtrack, the audio approach to notifications online for this brand, the approach to telephony, the type of voice, the tone of voice, and so forth. The brand music sound DNA, the tonal DNA, can inform every single audio interaction with that brand.

Reese: You’ve just perfectly summed up what audio branding is all about. Let’s talk about the future – it’s one of my favorite topics, and it’s something that brands ask me about all the time: What do we have to do to succeed in the future? Where do you think all of this is going?

Gallop: I have a particular take on the future. My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay, who said: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.” I’m all about inventing the future. The mistake that too many people make – and the mistake that brands make when they ask you that question – is to think about the future in a passive tense. Too many people think that the future is something that happens without us. Decide what you want the future to be, and make it happen.

When you decide to identify the sound of your brand from the ground up and design for it, do that with women.

Reese: Is there anything we haven’t chatted about that is particularly important to you in relation to the topic?

Gallop: Oh yes. To anybody in our industry: When you decide to identify the sound of your brand from the ground up and design for it, do that with women. Involve women, and primarily women, from the very start, in deciding what the sound of your brand is. Involve women in then designing how that factors into your strategic manifestation and your creative execution of that manifestation. I say this because women are the primary purchasers of every single brand and every single product sector.

Reese: The decision-makers.

Gallop: Exactly. Including sectors that have been thought to be traditionally male. In the US, more women hold driver’s licenses than men. In the US, more women drive than men. In the all-important millennial, new car-buying market in the US, 53% of car purchases are made by women. Yet who is the automotive industry targeting its product design, dealerships, communications and CRM at? Men.

Reese: That’s why you want women to design audio brand communication?

Gallop: That’s why I want them to do everything in the advertising and marketing industry. Not only do women buy, women share. Social media is a whole new methodology for us to do what we’ve been doing since the dawn of time as women, which is sharing the shit out of everything in a way that men don’t. Because we are the gossipers. we are the chatters, we are the talkers, the recommenders, the advocates, the ambassadors. We are the sharers. So much so that I say to brands that think they’re targeting men: “Talk to women.” Women will influence men more than men influence other men. It’s utterly ridiculous that the advertising and marketing industry is dominated by men, although its primary target is female. The creative departments and the executive creative directors are virtually all men. If you want your brand to own the future, have women design, create, strategize and execute every single thing about it.