“Words are all I have to steal your heart away…” Thus went the lyrics of a romantic ditty that, even today, gets zillions of women go weak in the knees. Gifted writers are fully cognizant about the world in which words dwell. They recognize the fact these precious creatures have a life of their own and need to be passionately wooed to help their breed attain the magic and mystique that only their [wordsmiths and words] ‘combine’ can bring, to stir up emotions and feel buried deep in the human heart.
My kill-joy friend smirked and dismissed summarily this sublime line of thinking while brazenly holding forth on his own views. He believed that in these fast-moving, impatient, digitally-driven times, words are swiftly being replaced by memorable sounds. “So, why should a profession which aims to connect brands with end-consumers play footsie and shy away from something offering readymade customer bonding and not pull the trigger? What is so sacred about words anyway? Will it wake the dead? Sounds are the new short-hand of communication, and those who cosy up, recognize and master this form of bonding are the guys – and brands – that’ll rock! They don’t need to pay a trip to the hot seat and exchange pleasantries with a certain celeb baritone to pick up their crores. They’ll make it if their choice is ‘sound’.
Literally! Much as I was sorely tempted to strangle my young irreverent friend and check out [in sadistic detail] the ‘sounds’ that would emanate from his throat, I had to agree – as a professional, communication practitioner – that he was not totally off his onion. Jhingalala, Toing, Ooolalalalaeo, Waku Doki and Wakow were indeed some sound-driven brand identities that had over the years made waves with their TG, offering large doses of entertainment value, novelty and effectiveness. But does the ad industry agree so? How did this issue resonate with the folks involved – the ad frat?
Josy Paul, Chairman & NCD of BBDO – of the gurkha topi fame – fires the first salvo. He believes that in these fast the furious clutter-driven times, “Memorability powered with authenticity are key factors. Hence new, interesting, innovative, clutter-busting ways to accomplish this in an exciting, people-friendly manner is the challenge. All these ‘sound’ ads referred to, delivered brilliantly on that score. Why just the ad world? Go to
Bollywood. Remember Yahoooo, Sukoo Sukoo or Oye Oye? Didn’t they grab popular imagination and even today retain high recall value?” However, Paul warns that there must be a legitimate brand-fit to add value and connect with the TG in a way that is spontaneous, fun and memorable. Otherwise, it can never work. N. Sridhar, NCD of Leo Burnett, begs to differ. “I think sounds like Wakow, even Waku Doki, are unlikely to go beyond the gimmick stage, because they appear to be created for novelty and nothing else. What on earth is Wakow and what does it mean? Waku Doki – Toyota – emanates from a totally Japanese narrative that means, heart pumping and adrenaline racing, but does the general public know this… or care about it?” He cities the brilliant case of‘Kataak’ – Hot Shot Cameras of the eighties – or ‘Wassup?’ – the Budweiser Beer signature, a smart-talk shot at the stylish GenY coloured section in USA, brilliantly, customer-focussed and driven. “At the end of the day, it’s a tricky route to traverse and one has to be totally sure and confident about the sund unleashed. It shouldn’t be all sound and fury, signifying nothing, to quote our friendly Bare of Avon!”
Pravin Singh Mann, Head of Creative, Sukoo Sukoo-BBDO Delhi, comes to the party with his own spin. He is of the opinion that it works only if the brands are “Truly iconic and powered with real deep pockets”, otherwise it just can’t click. A little-known brand taking the ‘sound’ route with limited budget is bound to fall by the wayside because of lack of sustainability. In cases where sounds have mad an impact, all the ads – Tata Sky, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Toyota –were and are monster brands with big budgets to go the distance and guarantee high visibility and frequency.
Words of gently dissent comes from Titus Upputuru, NCD, Dentsu Marcom, too: “I am not sure if making words out of sounds and using them as slogans or signatures really yield benefits to brands. I think there is a risk in remembering the sound and forgetting the brand!” Bhavna Sood, Senior VP – Communications & PR, DS Group, adds an interesting rider. “In this era of FM Radio, sound can be an extremely effective hero in the ad space offering instant identity. Clutter-busting and novel, it can provide both surprise and delight as a superbly fresh, memorable brand differentiator.”
Veteran Communication Consultant Asha Sarin however concludes this debate firing on all cylinders. She believes that most of this category – especially in the Indian context – is highly over-rated and deserves to be safely relegated to the dustbin. Adds Sarin, “Except the Kingfisher Ooolalalalao and Toing of Amul Macho, most others are eminently forgettable and irrelevant, adding zero value! The corny Googly Woogly Woosh (of Ponds), Wakow (Vanilla Coke), Jhingalala (Tata Sky) and many such fun-filled remarks by brands may provide entertainment to a brain dead viewership, but what do they do for the brand?” Not much, we reckon. Do these ad gurus believe that their Jhingalalas and Googly Wooglys will tickle the black boxes of their TG and influence purchase intents? Clients may buy the idea, but on a clear day you can see forever, and that’s when bad news knocks!
Strong words. But to decide for or against these attention seeking and many-a-time attention winning sounds is a tough call. It’s indeed an exciting, path breaking route to take, but at the same time a genuinely risky one. The ‘sound’ aspect – unlike in Bollywood movies – must be both meaningful and memorable. In an information-overkill space, with ads blitzing our senses every with way we turn, clutter-busting, unique and special are the real hot buttons to press. And if sound can provide that lucky break, why not give it a shot? So, get ready for some jhingalala times ahead. [Or maybe plain toing situations!]