Category Archives: Living the Brand

Brand Patterns and Leitmotives – Music Thinking Inspirations for Branding and Design

When designing a brand it is necessary to have a shared understanding about the why, what and how of a brand. This can be written down and visualized in a manifesto together with the brand DNA, vision, mission, ambition and the brand values, personality, promis and expressions. But this is just like the musical score. To really ‘live the brand’ it has to be performed and adapted everyday together with  your audience.

Music Thinking:
Here are two musical concepts that could inspire and engage brand professionals to think about the brand consumer relation to add value to both sides: first to the consumer, then it will pay back to the brand.

Pattern

Marc Shillum is approaching the filed of branding from a pattern thinking perspective:  Brand as Patterns. He states the most important feature of a successful brand is not just consistency, but rather the ability to continually reinvent the brand image according to what is most relevant at the time. In short, a successful brand must have a long term goal, but the short term strategy of how to get there must be continually reworked to remain coherent and relevant in a contemporary context.

Besides patterns there are more concepts that can bring context and meaning. In the Wagner Year it is worth to have a look on the contextual building blocks Wagner is using in his compositions: ‘das Leitmotiv’.

Leitmotiv

Leitmotives are musical phrases like story elements that does not imitate the sound of – for example – ‘crackling logs’, but make you feel the heat, thread and magic of fire. If you want to enjoy the music you don’t have to necessarily know everything about it, but ‘the more you know, the more beautiful it gets’.

Watch a great ‘musical introduction’ to Wagner’s Götterdämmerung with Kurt Masur and Jessy Norman and learn everything about the coding and decoding with Leitmotivs in film music like star wars and Wagner’s music.

From a branding point of view many different elements should make a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ so that the consumer can enjoy, be engaged and get an emotional bond with the brand without knowing exactly every detail.

But to create a brand it takes a lot of listening skills and contextual vision. Maybe the most importing thing: the music is not ready when the score is written. It has to be performed with real people for real people – again and again.

‘There is joy in repetition’ Prince

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What the economy could learn from Richard Wagner – the man, the work, the brand

The world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of composer Richard Wagner, this makes 2013 ‘the Wagnerjahr’. In their last edition of the year german financial newspaper “Handelsblatt’ is also focussing on ‘all the things to come’ and dedicated the cover story to Richard Wagner.

The story illustrates the many perspectives of Wagner: the innovator, the storyteller, the free spirit, the entrepreneur, the marketing strategist and I would like to add the ‘Music Thinker’ (more on music thinking see below).

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The visionary Wagner was driven by his mission to change the world with his idea of the innovative music drama into a unique ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’.
To realize his goal he was able to ‘think as a musician and act as a designer and entrepreneur’. He used his many skills without any compromise against all odds and struggles along the way like a 19th century Steve Jobs. He designed the interior of his music hall in Bayreuth with the focus on acoustics above comfort: the simple chairs are made from wood (fabrics would absorb the sound), the musicians are hidden in a deep orchestra pit so the audience would not be distracted, there is no heating and no climate control.

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When Wagner began to write his masterpiece – the 16 hour lasting ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen” – he was 34, at the world premiere in Bayreuth he was 63. The story is about love, power, leadership, greed, betrayal, ruin and destruction; or as conductor Christian Thielemann put it ‘what happens when modern man is losing sight of himself while striving for property and wealth’.

There are many connections possible with our modern world and politics. Every year captains of industry and politicians like Angela Merkel sit side by side to experience the man, the music and the brand Richard Wagner –  hope they get inspired to hear, see and do the right things in the context of  our Gesamtkunstwerk.

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Trending in 2013

For inspiration and speculation I put 4 terms into Google Trends (2012 view):

  • Richard Wagner
  • Financial Crisis
  • Service Design
  • Music Thinking

Interesting that the Financial Crisis is on it’s decline (at least in search volume nota bene), Service Design and Richard Wagner are meandering through the year with two peaks for Richard Wagner; Music Thinking is still a ‘hidden secret’.

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You can help to change this in 2013 with tweeting #musicthinking for inspiring ideas in music and beyond!

Music Thinking

“Music Thinking is the use of thoughts, learnings, ideas and inspirations that are derived from all kinds of music, sonic phenomena, sounds, musical instruments, tools, techniques, metaphors, patterns, brands, behaviours and music business to inspire and motivate in a new way of thinking to reach goals, solve problems or just to have fun.”

Christof Zürn  (www.musicthinking.com)

Some Music Thinking on Branding and Miles Davis

Although the music industry may use the term branding for marketing a product or band it is not used in the context of music itself. Though it could be interesting from a brand point of view to see how co-creation works in music. In many genres there are examples of co-creation from jazz to pop and rock.

But where rock bands would co-create in the studio and later just reproduce the outcome in gigantic tours without changing a single note, the jazz approach is different.

Recording sessions in the studio were rather an interruption of playing in clubs or being on a tour. So things that where tried out and tested on stage could be easily brought into the studio and studio experiments could easily be tested life with the experience of the direct response of the audience.

It is legitimate to call Miles Davis a strong brand that managed to develop, innovate and co-create new musical styles and genres over several decades starting from the 40s to the 90s. When you listen to albums like Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew or Tutu we encounter many different sounds, styles, genres and musicians but in all of the songs we hear and feel the ‘musical essence’ based on directions from the charismatic personality of Miles Davis. Although the essence is not explicit or defined by words we could see this as the brand itself that was co-created by Miles and his musicians.

In other words Miles the person is the brand ideology (mission, vision, values) and together with his musicians they were branding together.

Some aspects in his way of working:

Young musicians

An important role in the changes of musical innovation was the recruitment of young musicians that where willing to go where Miles wanted to be, or already had chosen a direction where Miles wanted to go. Miles did recruiting based on his vision and was actively looking for change of his own brand through co-creation.

Start with a sketch
Miles Davis self did not compose in the way that he came to a recording session with a fully written-out score. Most of the time either Miles or one of the band members came up with an idea or rough sketch that then was developed further.

In Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pur l’echafaud e.g. he let the band react directly to parts of the film that were shown in the recording studio via a big screen. Based on small instructions from Miles the band collectively reacted to actions and emotions.

The musicians did not always understand what he was doing, or what he wanted, but they trusted and respected him to make something outstanding. It was like: start with a sketch, learn together, build consensus for change and innovation.

Listen and play
Most of the musicians were talking about Miles as the ‘best listener who ever led a band’, he heard what everybody else was playing and with his voice and the ability to show new possibilities he was the glue to make it sound like a whole band. His instructions were famous in being vague, showing the right direction and also leaving enough freedom for own interpretation:  Don’t bang just play! You listen and you play!

Brand influence and the creation of new brands
“Everyone who played with Miles, feels a bond with each other” Herbie Hancock. Playing together with Miles was special and also inspiring to go on with musicians that had the Miles-experience in working together.

Bringing yourself in a co-creation with a big brand can also have a very positive effect on your own brand or personality. Nearly all of the musicians that played with Miles became later famous musicians and bandleaders themselves and created their own sound. Especially the ‘In a silent way’ players were dominating the jazz and rock development of the 70s and beyond.


The music of Miles Davis and the music thinking that is inspired by him can be a learning and inspiration for branding, communication, co-creation, new thinking about design and design of organizations and creative processes. Christof Zürn

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Want more info on co-creation, innovation an branding?

Brand Together: How Co-Creation Generates Innovation and Re-energizes BrandsI had the chance to read an early version of the new book of Nicholas Ind and to co-create and share with him some thoughts about co-creation, innovation and branding. I am looking forward to an interesting read! Brand Together: How Co-Creation Generates Innovation and Re-energizes Brands