Austria's oldest bank – Erste Bank – has taken the newest approach to banking with its new branch bank concept. The goal of redesigning the Lerchenfeld "Branch of the Future" in Vienna was to create a uniform, comprehensive brand experience at various levels. One of the ways this was achieved was through new architecture and the type of interactive communication and customer care featured at the branch bank. Erste Bank is thereby acting as a pioneer of a whole new category of bank.
The Approach: Music mirroring the musical-social environment of the target groups
The holistic approach conveying both technical and spatial variety, and the variety of the content, as well, is tracked here in a matching soundscape. Two aspects were given particular attention in designing the audio side of the branch: the content of the relationship with the customer and the company’s basic values.
Defining and Creating the sound for Erste Bank's "Branch of the Future"
amp took a twofold approach for the sound concept consisting of soundscapes and music-channel.
The designed soundscape is the first of its kind at a European bank consisting of a collage-like composition made up of noises, sounds and music fragments, providing support for the perception of the new branch bank unobtrusively in the background. The sound concept ensures discretion in a completely open space, which also has a positive effect on the staff’s work environment.
Based on the basic values of Erste Bank, the brand positioning is given a sharper edge with the slogan "individual advice for everyone". The idea of listening to the customer while at the same time taking account of the required scope for freedom played an important role in both the concept work and the composition.
The results of amp's work are divided into four sound zones along the lines of the four basic elements (zones) of the branch concept, each of which can feature distinct sounds.
The Future Lab zone covers the two largest areas in the branch, the Marketplace (meeting point / daily business / cafeteria) and the Forum (event / auditorium / open communication). Here general themes for all generations come into composition. amp's technical concept enables thematic points of emphasis to be integrated into the existing soundscape through additional or changing sound material, thereby adjusting the soundscape to such themes like seasons, for instance.
The Walk of Life – the heart of the branch – comprises stations where visitors can identify with respective life situations and obtain easy access to all financial topics. This is accomplished with print media and interactive touch screens. The Walk of Life presents the life of customers as a focal point connecting generations.
A generative soundscape composition tailored to the three stations – youth, middle age and seniors ‑ provides for a wide variety of themes made audible. The topics which are an integral part of the values and principles of Erste Bank were combined in this sound concept and can be understood as a "permanent sound exhibit". For young people, for instance, sounds were taken from their everyday experience, such as snowboarding, voices at a schoolyard, graffiti spray and scooter sounds, all mixed together. For the "middle aged" generation, the sound allusions revolve around such topics as family, household, work and business trips, excursions to the countryside, etc. For seniors, tones from the cultural environment, such as opera and theater, unite with pleasant sounds associated with leisure time activities, such as golfing, traveling and garden work.
The audio material used in each soundscape is related to customers’ lives and takes account of the musical-social environment of the intended audience. When choosing the audio material, value was placed on sourcing material that listeners would find recognizable and relatively familiar.
What does generative mean?
Generative in this context refers to the random interplay of music, sound and noise. The audio material – taken from different categories – is varied and mixed together with aid of a computer program. The hallmark of the soundscapes thus produced through superimposing is that they feature sound combinations which are unique and, as a rule, not reproducible. Hence the soundscape is subject to a constantly changing recombination of the audio material. This results in a huge diversity which enables us to prevent wear-out effects and the recurrence of identical "loops". Giving the sound fragments this kind of non-linear structure makes the soundscape feel particularly vibrant and dynamic.
The sound concept for the Branch of the Future has a second basic mainstay in the form of an alternative individually compiled music channel (centrally managed and controlled). amp selected the music according to special musical parameters to suit the conceptual guidelines of this branch. In order to ensure a high degree of musical variety and to keep the staff from becoming too accustomed to the music, an update replaces a portion of the selection at intervals.
The result and its potential
The "Branch of the Future" project represents an innovative, future-oriented solution for the branch bank sector, as well as in connection with brand spaces and brand-specific audio concepts. It is able to harmonize the image of a brand with the needs of consumers in a form that is pleasant and richly varied.
amp is glad that its excellent collaboration with Erste Bank made this project such a success and thus laid the cornerstone for applying this sound concept in all the bank’s branches in seven countries.