Matt Preschern, who was born and educated in Austria, is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of HCL Technologies, one of the world’s fastest growing Information Technology companies with 110,000 employees across 32 countries and roughly 7 billion dollars in revenue. He is responsible for all marketing functions including global business, strategic marketing, sales enablement and corporate communications. Before joining HCL, he was Senior Vice President and Enterprise Chief Marketing Officer at Windstream and held several leadership positions at IBM, including Vice President of Marketing for North America. In his 101 Great Minds interview, the renowned marketing expert provides inspiring insights about the role of music in the B2B sector, referring to over two decades of experience in the industry.
Reese: How important is music in branding, in strategically guiding a brand? What value does it have overall?
Preschern: I think the short answer is: very important. In the B2B space, which we primarily occupy, branding sometimes is underestimated, I think. You have to authentically and emotionally connect with your target audience. In our case, that may be the CIO, the CTO, the head of procurement or a business leader - but they’re also human beings. And how do you connect with people? Is there anything that’s better than music? I don’t think so. I mean, I’m from Austria, you know. We Austrians like our music. (laughs)
Reese: Oh right, there was this pretty talented guy from Salzburg called Mozart (laughs).
Preschern: (laughs) Yeah, we’re kind of proud of that.
Reese: I have interviewed a lot of Fortune1000 companies that say: We know we must at least get to a set of common audio communication standards because it’s so valuable in emotional brand building. So, if your colleague asked you: How do I approach something like that? What would you say?
Preschern: I sometimes like to go back to Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re running.” So – in defence of my fellow CMOs and the world we live in – I think we live in a world of digital disruption. And, whether we like it or not, we find ourselves in a day-to-day tactical fight of “Which channel do I use? Do I use video enough or not? Am I evolving towards 21st century marketing?” I do think that – particularly when it comes to brand building – in this highly-interconnected world, the power of your brand will only become more important because it is what should represent the DNA of your company, the essence of who you are. And my advice to everyone would be: What are all the strategic elements that are required to build a brand? You need to spend some time to think that through. To do so, you must take a step back occasionally. When it comes to segmentation and your target audience, you’re talking about people, not a list. And this will not just come to you, it won’t happen ‘just because’. And who else in the company is responsible for it if it’s not the Marketing and Communications Leader?
Reese: There’s this simple formula: Consistency plus time equals trust. When I ask people to tell me their three greatest artists they say “Elvis, Sinatra, Michael Jackson” – but they never tell me a song. They say: “The way Michael was kind of squeaking” or “the way Elvis moved his hips” – and I say: That’s sound branding. It’s the consistency in your voice that makes you authentic.
Preschern: I was just going to say that. I think the part that’s important is the authenticity. When other CMOs ask me, I always say: Be sure that who you are as a brand, what you say, how you say it – the good old “looks like, feels like, acts like … sounds like ...HCL” – is authentic. And if you can accomplish that, your brand is going to become an even more strategic asset. The reason being: we live in this digital world. You can go to YouTube or any social media channel and you will find the footprint. The question is: how consistent is that footprint? Does it come across a certain way? But also: is it sincere? Is it heartfelt? And, maybe most importantly, are your employees living it? Your employees are your brand ambassadors. They are the ones who represent the company at every touchpoint. And again, is there anything that’s more unifying than music? I don’t know. People connect around music. It’s the big global language. How could we as marketers, who are trying to build an authentic brand, ignore it or not treat it with the respect that it deserves?
Reese: That’s the big question. For the 101GreatMinds project, I’ve talked to a hundred of the greatest creatives out there. One thing they all agreed on was that music makes between 50% and 70% of the brand, and that they need to do better, that they need to think about music strategically. They agreed that it’s used as a storytelling tool but that it could be so much more, like a visual DNA – written in stone.
Preschern: Right. When branding originally started, there was a lot of discussion about reputation management, about the logo, which became the visual identity. Then we continued to progress in the notion of the importance of design. But we’re probably still - particularly in the B2B space - in the early parts of thinking of music the same way we think about visual identity or a logo. There’s no marketer in any large company who would not understand that you need a truly understood visual identity and logo – industry standard, right? And I think music should be thought of as another strategic element tool that’s essential as we build brands. Again, it’s about trust building, authenticity, emotionally connecting. I’m a big believer that brands need to emotionally connect.
Reese: Matt, is there anything you would like to add?
Preschern: One of my mentors once taught me the importance of asking “Why”. And not only to ask “Why” once, but to ask it two or three times. When you meet someone in this space, and music comes up, ask them “Why? Why is it important?”. And when they give you a response, ask them again. And ask them a third time. Because my hypothesis is: by the third time they’ve answered that simple question, “Why is music so important?”, that proverbial lightbulb may go off.