Alexander Ewig, Managing Director Marketing, MediaMarktSaturn
Alexander Ewig was the COO of Wunderman Germany before he joined the European consumer electronics giant MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group in 2014. Since he took on the role of Managing Director at MediaMarktSaturn Marketing GmbH in 2017, he has been responsible for the marketing strategies of Media Markt and Saturn, two brands that are known for their distinct voice and catchy taglines.
Reese: I usually ask my interviewees about the importance of music in branding. In your case, I want to know: How important is voice in branding?
Ewig: It’s extremely important. Voice has always played a huge role in our work, for quite a practical reason: we’ve always done a lot of radio advertising. On the radio, there is no visual component, obviously, so we used the voiceover to create instant brand recognition. We wanted our customers to be able to tell within seconds whether they were listening to a Media Markt spot or a Saturn spot.
Reese: How do you pick the right voice for a brand?
Ewig: We look at the tonality, color, and melody of the voice. We ask ourselves: Do we want a male or female voice? A familiar or an unfamiliar sounding voice? Slight dialect or no dialect? What about aggressiveness and speed of speech? Longevity is an important factor, too. Voiceover artists usually work for several brands in the advertising business. So, in the long run, it is important to check in after some years and evaluate whether the brand voice can still provide the desired effect, that recognizability.
Reese: Media Markt launched its sound logo last year. What made you take this step?
Ewig: There were two reasons. One, we wanted to move away from the voiceover being our only recognizable audio element. A sound logo allows us to achieve brand recognition that is independent of the brand name or voice.
Second, we wanted to react to the exponential increase in the importance of audiovisual media, which is being driven by voice assistant systems such as Alexa and Google Home, and also the increasing relevance of podcasts. For us as retail brands, this development is extremely interesting. However, we knew early on that we would do it differently from Telekom’s two-note logo or Audi’s heartbeat sound at the end of each spot. The Media Markt sound logo is fully integrated into the commercial, for instance, a delivery truck honks the melody, or the staff of a Media Markt store play it on the trumpet. It is a key element of the storyline and appears in various acoustic forms.
Reese: Let’s talk a bit about the process. How did you go from “We want audiovisual recognizability” to a finished sound logo?
Ewig: We worked with an advertising agency. We provided a briefing to guide them in the right direction, and they then sought for composers and musicians. The creative process took about five to six months. When they played us the four shortlisted pieces, we saw that they had met the briefing, but we were still clueless about which one would work. I mean how were we supposed to know if our favourite one was ‘the one’? How could we be sure that it had the power to convey brand identity? We would have had to hear it about 5,000 times to answer that question. So we trusted our gut and made a decision. The rest was just hope and trust.
Reese: That means you did not test the sound logo before the launch?
Ewig: No. We don’t do pre-tests. I believe that pre-testing creates insecurity. When you are convinced of an idea, go for it and ask people how they like it afterward. That’s when you will get the real answers, the ones you can work with. If we had pre-tested the Saturn and Media Markt taglines, the most popular taglines in German advertising would have probably never made it to the public.
Reese: The Beatles probably wouldn’t have passed a pre-test either (laughs).
Ewig: We do carry out market research after the launch. We look at whether the melody is memorable, whether people find it annoying or too aggressive. We are now in the process of making adjustments based on that feedback.
Reese: Would you agree that we, as marketers, do not pay sound the respect that it deserves?
Ewig: I agree 150%. Most creative directors are visual people, hardly any of them has an in-depth understanding of brand sound. In agencies, you’ll find a creative director for every area but for sound. That role simply doesn’t exist. And I’m not trying to finger-point at agencies here - It’s us as clients who must demand such a role, but we don’t. So, yes, the importance of music is being underestimated completely.
Reese: Should brands apply the same discipline to auditive communication as they do to visual communication?
Ewig: Yes, without a doubt.
Reese: Then why do 90% of brands still not do it?
Ewig: Because of the lack of know-how and the fact that neither the agency nor the client side insist on it. Humans are wired to respond to visual communication. Studies have shown that people would rather be deaf than blind if they had to choose. Visual communication is very powerful.
Reese: In your opinion, what’s the most important thing when using sound in advertising?
Ewig: I think it is keeping in mind that the word is “audio-visual”. It’s an interplay of sound and visual, two elements that should be designed to complement each other early on when planning a campaign. Also, I cannot emphasize this enough: When you consider audio in advertising, make sure to consider the element of voice, as well. Voiceover is an incredibly powerful tool, especially for retail brands. Being meticulous about the choice of brand voice is crucial. With our last Saturn campaign, we put at least as much time and effort into finding the voice as into the rest of the campaign.