The Sound of Business
You’d be surprised how few businesses think about sound. This is mostly due to our physiology: we can close our eyes, but not our ears. Because we’re always hearing, we tend to ignore unpleasant noise. This capacity to filter out sound is why our relationship with sound is so subconscious: as you read these words, what is the sound of the world around you? Try closing your eyes for a moment and notice the multiple layers of sound in your surroundings. All of sudden, a symphony comes to life, and all that’s required is a shift of attention.
If this comes as a surprise, that’s because we are rarely taught to listen. Listening is hearing with attention. Schools test reading, writing, and a bit of speaking, but not listening. This has consequences on our health, our relationships, and our brands.
Fortunately, there is room for improvement. Brands that consciously use sound engage their customers in a more holistic manner: after all, we experience the world through our whole bodies, including the five senses. An influential brand offers an experiential journey that goes far beyond the utility of product/service. Think sonic logos, music in commercials, and the sounds in your favorite cafe. Think Nokia ring tone and the noise your laptop makes when you turn it on.
I am not advocating for brands to devise clever multisensory marketing campaigns, but simply to be aware of the realities of the human body and explore how their brand can nourish it. Of our fives senses, sound is the most overlooked given its importance. Conscious use of sound gets us out of heads and into our bodies.
While some brands miss out on opportunities to engage their customers through sound, other brands shoot themselves in the foot by already making sound without realizing it, or without understanding it. The typical example is the restaurant so loud you have to yell in order to ask for the salt. Then there’s the supermarket that plays pop music through cheap loudspeakers on top of the rumble of freezers, cash register beeps, and squeaky chariots. It’s a lose-lose situation. Customers don’t enjoy it, either consciously or unconsciously, and ultimately the business loses in sales. It’s like this all over the world and very little is done about it.
As quantum physicists and ancient sages confirm, all matter vibrates and thus makes sound. The world is sound – we only hear a small bandwidth of it. As individuals, we can learn to listen to the world outside and the world inside ourselves. In our work spaces, we can create diverse sonic environments that respect the need for quiet as well the need for energizing buzz. For businesses, thinking about sound provides a empathic way to understand themselves and their role in the world. Listening is both an action of the ear and an action of the heart. Food for thought.