Raymond understood sonic branding long before it became fashionable to apply it as a discipline to brands. In the UK they are called sonicons. Closer home my friend Rajeev Raja who runs his own company called BrandMusiq calls it mogos, an abbreviation for musical logos. Says Rajeev Raja, "Creating a sonic identity connects with consumers at a deeper, more subliminal level. And this is where the MOGO™ or 'musical logo' plays a crucial role."
There have been many famous mogos or sonicons in the history of Indian advertising. But the most memorable from my childhood were brands like Lifebuoy, Saridon and Anacin. The sound of - tandurasti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy, Lifebuoy hai jahan tandurusti hai wahan! - still rings in my ears. Or take the famous Saridon" Sirf ek Saridon aur sar dard se araam." Those were the innocent days of advertising when we still referred to them as jingles rather than mogos.
There have been several after those old memorable ones, including Britania's - Ding, ding de ding - but I always felt that sonic branding went better with words that could be sung or remembered. It just made the brands more memorable. Paul McCartney was once known to have said that a good tune was one that you could sing or whistle to soon after you have heard it. Neuroscientists have now analysed the brain mechanisms relating to memory and found that words set to music are the easiest to remember. A strange and unfamiliar piece of instrumental music playing every time I open my bank's website is not necessarily memorable. In fact, it can be downright irritating, because internet banking needs to be done in silence
One of the most endearing tunes to be associated with a brand on the Indian advertising scene has certainly been Raymond's Complete Man. The musical phrase which stood by Raymonds for many years was taken from Traumerei from Kinderszenen Op 15 by Schumann. The piece first became famous at the end of World War II as radio stations all over the world played it to signal the end of the war. This version by Horowitz might bring back some familiar memories of previous Raymond films for example.
The tune said something about the person who wore a suit made out of Raymond's fabrics. That he was a man of the world; that he was sophisticated; and that he was gentle and successful. And most importantly, that women found him sensitive.
Raymond's latest film, however, has proved to be a complete departure from the previous tone and personality of the brand. Almost like moving from an opera house into a hard rock concert without a transition to adjust to the change.
The new TVC from Raymond had everyone complimenting the brand for their brave gesture of using visually impaired Canadian singer and writer, Jugpreet Singh Bajwa, as the hero of the film to give his interpretation of black for the new Black Collection of fabrics. Advertising has been using differently abled people in their commercials for a while now. Bajwa recites some slam poetry which goes like this:
'Black is a like a silence that everyone can feel. When it finally speaks, it deafens the world with its powerful words. It's time to unravel."
Having been in advertising all my life, I thought my view of Raymond's new film might be biased and intellectual. So, I decided to expose the film to a few advertising and non-advertising people.
Ranjan Malik an innovation consultant said, "The problem with it is that it is trying too hard. This disease has afflicted many brands these days - trying too hard to connect with a higher cause. They come across as insincere or clumsy. Often both."
Vikas Mehta a consultant who now lives in Dehradun and spent most of this life in advertising said, "The film left me confused. I had no idea who the blind guy was and just found it a bit too esoteric to signify black".
Well-known author and writer Milan Vohra said, "It seems gimmicky without making an impactful statement. Also, about the slam poetry, I find that the performance distracts me from the poetry".
But I thought the most poignant view came from the advertising and marketing person, Lata Subramanian, who said that black, was not necessarily about being dark and menacing. She recalled the beautiful all-time favourite, Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel - "Hello darkness my old friend, I have come to talk to you again".
Sumit Roy, long-time trainer and innovation consultant, however, felt differently. He said, "The Complete Man worked because women actually chose suiting brands, not men. Apparently we men can't decide on suits without having a woman at our side. While I am always for long-running campaigns "The Complete Man" is now over 25 years old. Do women like "sensitive men" any more or do they relate to Rupi Kaur more? Times may have changed."
The views expressed so far were specifically on the Black commercial and how it relates with Raymond's broader positioning. As this was essentially an outside-in perspective, I decided to check with an insider - Rajeev Raja of BrandMusiq, the sonic brand consultant for the brand. Here's his perspective:
"In the recent Raymond Black commercial, since the creative idea involved a monologue we relied more on sound design, but you will clearly hear the Raymond MOGO™ at the end along with the Raymond Logo. Raymond has not deserted either the Complete Man theme or the sonic branding."
Fair enough, in hindsight we all noticed the MOGO. A classic case of stimulus-response mismatch?
(The author is an independent brand strategy advisor)