The Sound of Music

Have you ever connected a song/tune to a brand or a, brand to a song/tune. Of course you have! Because apart from captivating imagery used in advertising, the right sort the aural equivalents are equally persuasive. If the message of the song is parallel to the one you are trying to convey, it becomes twice as clear to the target audience, increasing it’s recall value in the process.  Another important aspect is that, much like the beauty of music, sound as a whole transcends language and cultural barriers, providing channels for easier delivery and reception of a message.

Enter the realm of Sonic Branding ;  According to Audrey Arbeeny, the founder and executive producer of the Emmy-winning firm AudioBrain (the firm specializes in sonic branding) sonic branding is “the strategic development of a brand’s attributes through sound and its deployment across a multitude of touch-points to create a seamless, cohesive and authentic sonic presence.” So, Sonic branding essentially encompasses,  the sound logo, the jingle, brand music, brand theme and the various touch points at which these elements are put to use. As you can imagine, a multi-million dollar industry has spawned from companies’ enthusiasm to capture the values and emotions associated with the product, sonically, and inject them into our minds.

What does your brand sound like?

What does your brand sound like?

According to David Huron in “Music in Advertising: An Analytic Paradigm” (Musical Quarterly, Vol. 73), the purposes of music in advertisements are to engage a listener’s attention and to make the advertising message less of an unwanted intrusion.(His paper is an interesting read. Here’s the Link (, This detail, I think is bang on. Think about all the advertisements you’ve grown up watching or listening to (I am a 90’s child) how many of them do you remember? I am quite certain, Nirma will stand out, so will Frooti and Vicco. I believe all of these brands have strong identities even today because of their amazing Sonic branding, Now these tiny pieces of music have crawled into our subconscious and have found a cosy little nook, where they will live on, forever. Given that India is a very sonically inclined nation (The  lavish amounts of songs in a typical Bollywood movie, should be a dead give away) these brands were quick to incorporate engaging tunes into their adverts to make them more appealing to the masses. The earlier Sonic branding was more melody based, with the brand name mentioned repeatedly. These days, aural tools no longer just repeat the brand name, but are conveyed in a manner where the core brand ideologies are tied to the music more creatively.

Here’s a look at a few Companies who’ve got their sonic branding right:

The NOKIA Tune: GRAND VALSE (or Gran Vals)

Nokia has built its own unique sound personality as an integral part of their brand with the Nokia Tune which is taken from a composition called “Grand Valse”, composed by Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) from Spain. The Nokia tune was first aired in early 1990s in TV ads while the tune appeared as a ring tone on a Nokia device in 1994. Ever since, it has been the default melody on hundreds of millions of Nokia handsets and has taken the world by storm. You’d have to be living under a rock if you don’t know this one.

INTEL’S : iconic four bongs

The masterpiece of sonic branding, is Intel’s “bongs” four notes which were composed in 1994 and have been heard more than a billion times since. The tune was designed by, composer Walter Werzowa after a weekend of contemplation.


This is brand I will recognize with my eyes shut. Quite literally. Even their website acts a touch point for sonic branding, as you move from page to page, the trademark tintin dri tin resonates at every click. Almost to the point of it being a wee bit annoying. Take a listen.

The average person out there may not be consciously aware that he/she is being bombarded by sonic branding tools and techniques daily. This, for the most part is because  the reception of aural presentations is rather subliminal in nature, and therefore, the message is processed on an emotional plane rather than at a  rational level.

Sonic Branding isn’t a new  phenomenon, it’s been around for a long time, and is an integral part of sensory marketing. As traditional advertising spills over into an era of new media (we are talking about incredible speed in release of content ,Co-creation – blurred lines between producers and audiences, Sharing- social platforms  and technology – web and mobile),the marketing techniques employed so far will be challenged by intelligent consumers, triggering a metamorphosis, by that virtue bringing to the fore stimulating and innovative concepts in marketing.

*tingling with excitement *

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Chennai’s paradoxical autodrivers

In 2008, I moved from Bangalore (or shall I say, I was uprooted rather forcefully) to Chennai. There were a few things about Chennai that stood out, like the stifling heat (the fact that we decided to move in the blistering month of May, did not help) the palpable stench from the sewers or something, but to be reeeaally honest with you I am sure all of those things were tad exaggerated in my head because of my unwillingness to relocate to Chennai.  I’ve been here for 5 years now, and city isn’t THAT bad, it’s a lovely place (there’s a beach here!) AND I’ve met a whole lot of amazing people. But one thing I can’t make up my mind about is how I feel about the Auto-drivers of the city. I have had encounters with plenty of colourful auto drivers during my time in Bangalore (The usual ‘one and half, madam’ rates after 8:30 pm and the rigged meters *yawn*) but all of those auto annas pale in comparison to the ones in Chennai, and I HAVE to admit, these guys are quite savvy.

Now, when I say,‘savvy’ there are two distinct types, one of the unscrupulous variety and the other of the progressive variety. Before I can go on to explain how you can spot the two strains of auto-drivers, let me shed some light into what the autorikshaw ecosystem is like in Chennai.

Successive Governments in Tamil Nadu haven’t been able to regulate the highly unregulated autorikshaw sector. The fare is never by the meter and an arbitrary rate is fixed by the auto-driver which is, most times, ATLEAST 5 times more than what it would be by the meter. Recently the Supreme Court directed the Government of Tamil Nadu to fix new autorikshaw fares by the end of August, 2013! So let’s see how that goes. *fingers crossed*


An Autorikshaw.

The hallmarks of the unscrupulous variety are as follows;

  •  “What Madam??! You are rich, < insert a ridiculously extortionate price> will not make any difference”.All this will be delivered with utmost feeling, tears threatening to spring at any moment. An amateur would most definitely succumb to this little performance. It’s usually the middle-aged auto drivers who employ this clever ruse.
  •  NEVER try to catch an auto at what seems like an Auto Stand, unless being ripped-off is something you enjoy. Getting a decent fare at an auto stand is twice hard as hailing one off the road. And the most annoying part is, if at the auto stand you do manage to haggle your way into getting a decent fare from one auto driver, that auto driver will provoke the ire of the others and a fight ensues, and you are back where you started.
  •  Chennai is home to a unique contraption called, the ‘Share auto’,as the name suggests you essentially share an auto with 13 other people in a tiny crawl space.(Yes, it qualifies as a safety hazard) This mode of conveyance is quite popular because it is cheap, but the downside is that, when you get off the share auto, you are rather disheveled and disoriented. Almost all the share autos I’ve travelled in have been driven by drivers who have mad skills, they can make the sharpest swerves and weave precariously through traffic, without breaking a sweat. I am shit scared of traveling in these conduits from hell.


    A share auto in all it’s glory.

  •  Then there are those, with whom you’ve negotiated and brought the fare down to a respectable rate and you get into the auto. Halfway to the destination the auto mysteriously develops a technical snag, so he parks it on the curb and starts tinkering with it but to no avail. You have no option but to get off and look for another auto, at which point the auto driver gently reminds you that you’ve to pay him. Of course, and you ask him how much, (you’d think ah! Half price), but NOOO! he demands you pay the entire fare. (This has happened to me twice)

The hallmarks of the endearing progressive variety;

  •    These chaps are good-natured and they are very reasonable when it comes to quoting fares.
  • There is this popular auto-driver that my cousin was raving about the other day, he goes by the name Samson (The auto driver, not my cousin). This guy is amazingly friendly, he has his own website where out-of- town’ers can book his auto he also doubles up as a tour guide. How awesome is that! I’ve left a link to his page.

  •  Here’s a share auto driver who has been making waves recently, his name is Annadurai. You will not believe the sort of services he offers in his share auto. Here’s the list-free WiFi, mobile charging ports, 35 magazines, 10 newspapers, a TV and a Samsung Galaxy tablet to access Internet (in case you don’t have a smart phone).If that didn’t inspire awe in you (that’d be really odd, you might want to get a chromosomal analysis performed) you should take a look at the discounts Annadurai offers:  Mother’s Day – Free rides for mothers with their children,Women’s Day – Free rides for women over the age of 50; Children’s Day – Free rides for school students; Father’s Day – Free for men over the age of 45; Abdul Kalam’s birthday – Rides at 50 per cent off for all customers; Independence Day – Free rides for anyone born before 1947; Annadurai’s birthday – 50 per cent off on rides for all customers.Annadurai is such an enterprising man! He is committed to ensuring customer satisfaction and it is paying off because people actually wait for his     auto every morning. Even though Annadurai spends around 5,000 bucks  a month(this includes subscriptions to magazines) to give his customers an auto ride like no other in the city, he makes a cool profit, earning 1,000 bucks a day.

I just wish there’d be more guys like Samson and Annadurai, who’d make commuting by autos an enjoyable experience. I don’t want to be dabbing war paint on every time I have got an auto to catch!

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The Bumpy Road to an MBA


MBA on my mind.

I have seriously considered doing my MBA for a year now. After 2 disastrous and 1 so-so attempts at beating the GMAT, I rather boldly applied to Kellogg in round 3 (Yeah, I am ballsy, an international applicant with a substandard GMAT score in round 3…whaaa?) only to be dinged. But I am not disheartened, I’ve picked myself up and started my preparation for this admission cycle ( August – September, 2014). I have solid goals this time around.

PHASE 1 ( June – August)

1. Get that dream GMAT Score of 740 – 760

2. Get my profile licked into shape. (More on that in posts that follow)

3. Short list 7 schools. (All in the top 15, US Schools)

PHASE 2 (August – December)

1. Get all my applications through in R1(Dream Schools) and R2 (Safe Schools)

2. Get accepted into at least 2 schools (Kellogg and Yale)

Yes, I have a definite plan of action and I am going to chronicle them in my blog. I think putting this goal out there for everyone to see is petrifying, but more importantly it will help me stay focused on my goals and who knows it might even help someone who is in the same boat as me!

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In a ‘POSITIONING’ state of mind.

To feed my burgeoning fascination with Marketing, I’ve enrolled in a Marketing program at a Business School. In one of our classes the Professor discussed at length about the concept of Positioning and the pivotal role it plays in Branding. The subject got me very interested and I went about doing some research of my own.

Positioning essentially is a piece of the STP (Segmentation Targeting Positioning) process. It refers to the effort a Brand makes to condition how the Brand is perceived by the consumer. (Just like, how most people love making good impressions on people).Specifically, articulating the purpose the consumer will attain by using the brand, and explains why it is superior to other means of accomplishing this purpose.

Here’s what is absolutely clear,

1.  Competitive positioning requires the identification of a pertinent frame of reference and associated points of parity and points of difference and 2. Positioning happens in the mind of the consumer.This I was able to infer (after copious research) from the countless hits and misses that Brands have had with their Positioning statements in the market. To convey a Brand’s Positioning to the consumer a Positioning statement (A concise one – two sentence statement ) is prepared. Now, this statement which is typically developed by the Brand Manager, is shared through out the organization and even though the positioning statement is constructed in a consumer friendly language, it is NOT meant to be read by the consumer.  Instead, the Positioning Statement will be disseminated to the consumer through the brand design, communication, pricing and channels of distribution. Let me dissect the Positioning Statement into digestible pieces for you.


As the name suggests this is the part which describes the targeted consumers based on demographics and psychographics. The target audience is selected with respect to product category. For instance, In this positioning statement (waaaay back in 2007 when Apple Inc was  known as Apple computers) Apple’s Positioning statement went something like this – Apple computers offers the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.

The target segment is defined as ‘students, educators, creative professionals’ (and of-course consumers around the world; everyone seems to have an apple product these days).


 A Brand can establish a frame of reference by saying it belongs in a certain category of products.

Apple computers offers the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.

Here the frame of reference is very clearly outlined as being ‘Personal Computers’. Therefore the idea is that, the consumer will infer that Apple serves the goal that is associated with the product category, ie Personal Computers.


 Now, that we’ve established what the frame of reference is, the Point of Difference is much easier to interpret. The Point of difference is that portion of the positioning statement that tells you how the brand is superior to other players within the frame of reference.

Apple computers offers the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.

Going back to Apple’s Positioning statement ; the Point of Difference is ‘innovation’. Primarily a functional benefit.

All three points put together with careful consideration of the Market at large, will give you sturdy and well constructed Positioning Statement.

The role of positioning is not limited just to building a strong brand image and being crystal clear in a brand’s delivery.Strong Positioning can act as a barrier to competitive entry and provide a framework for the execution of marketing strategies. Positioning is most definitely not a one time effort. Modification of the position, coupled with tremendous brand tracking endeavors are needed to sustain a brand overtime.


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The Best Ever Lime Cake

Baking is something I enjoy immensely. I derive comfort from the aroma that wafts through the house when there’s something baking in the oven and of course there’s that anticipation of eating that baked item that’s even more comforting. I believe baking and the halo that encompasses it, will uplift even the sourest of moods!

Now the baked item in question is a  glorious lime cake AND it is so uncomplicated to assemble. I swear by this recipe. The cake is jam-packed with the goodness of vitamin C AND Calcium (what more could you ask for?), these two elements are credited for their mood enhancing qualities (the legit way :p), so it will be like you are eating a little bit of sunshine every time you take a bite! 😀

The Recipe (Makes one loaf)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt ( The Calcium)

1 1/3 cups sugar, divided

3 extra-large eggs

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (The Vitamin C)

For the glaze

2 cups Icing Sugar, sifted

3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat the oven. Grease an 8.5 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with butter paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lime zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick or a satay stick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

The Lime Sugar Syrup

Meanwhile, heat the 1/3 cup lime juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet.Take a toothpick and poke holes abundantly on the face of the loaf and while the cake is still warm, pour the lime-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in for about 20 minutes.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lime juice and pour over the cake, after its completely cool.

And just dive in.


The lime cake.





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