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Feb 14

Marketing Mavericks of Audio Branding – Tapio Hakanen, Nokia

Marketing Mavericks of Audio Branding is a series of interviews that we hope will show you how global businesses are using sound to strengthen their brand.

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Interview with Tapio Hakanen from Nokia

Tapio Hakanen is an award winning sound designer and chart topping electronic music producer from Finland. Currently, he heads up Nokia‘s global sound design and visual content teams. Tapio is responsible for digital content like ringtones, preloaded music tracks, wallpapers and preloaded videos in all Nokia devices. His role also involves overseeing Nokia’s audio identity and music and sound design for various Nokia ads, communications and events like Nokia World and Mobile World Congress.

Jordan Stevens (JS): Tell me a bit about your role at Nokia? What are some of things you are trying to accomplish?
Tapio Hakanen (TH): I am managing the sound design team of Nokia Design and also guiding Nokia Brand Team with our audio brand. Sound team is mainly working on devices (200+ million devices shipped every year) and also supporting Nokia Marketing, Events, Applications and Gear with their sound design and music production needs. Many brands have visual libraries in their brand book, but Nokia also has a music library which we curate and manage. So anyone working at Nokia can go there and take music for their video and other needs. Quick, easy, free and on-brand.

JS: Like British Airways, Nokia has integrated a pre-composed song into its audio brand. Why do you think this method is effective?
TH: I think that with both brands “consistency” is the key to effectiveness. When working in large organizations and with lot of creative people (who are willing to create something new all the time) it can be challenging to stick to something for years (or decades) and build recognizability to the sonic assets. But when a brand manages to do that and be consistent – it’s very effective because you then have something ownable in a very cluttered space of marketing and audio.

British Airways theme from Flower duet by Lakme

Nokia Tune based off of this song by Francisco Tárrega

JS: Do you think music is an international language? Why?
TH: Music is an international language, but perhaps not quite a universal as people in western parts of the world like to think. India, China and South Africa for example have amazing and rich music cultures with great heritage but which in many ways differ heavily from the western sound. We recognise this at Nokia and for example with our ringtones, we offer locally tailored sounds for those regions.

JS: What is the Nokia sound? Do you follow an audio brand guidebook?
TH: Nokia audio brand is defined by certain key audio drivers which have been taken from the brand identity drivers. We have documented those but in my opinion we must be careful not to focus too much on “being on brand” with sound. Audio visual communication pieces (namely videos) are so complex and multilayered pieces that insisting for example all music in all videos to follow certain four or five characteristics would just make no sense. We need a clear understanding of the brand and its identity but equally we need common sense and great creatives who understand when to dial up or down certain aspects of audio. In the end, it just needs to feel right.

JS: Nokia is a large company with many products and markets. Do you have a process for keeping the brand sound consistent across different countries and SKUs?
TH: Nokia brand and marketing has unified strongly in the recent year or two and that has created a much more coherent brand image. Most of the marketing assets (including sound) are created centrally (or with few key agencies) so that helps a lot in achieving that consistency. With so a large portion of marketing being on the Internet we need to remember that marketing efforts are often global in nature because for example YouTube videos get views from all around the world. Our team contributes to many of the videos (external and internal) and in those we try to get into the process as early as possible so that audio isn’t just an afterthought. Great things come out of integrated sound team.

JS: Speaking of integration, how do you manage the creativity side of your role and the strategic side of building a brand?
TH: To me personally, it’s important to “keep hands in the mud” so to say and make sure that I dive into the creative projects and tasks we have at hand and not just manage the deliveries and give strategic guidance. We create a big part of our sounds internally and that helps us to check if the guidance we are giving is achievable. Personally, I try to have 1-2 days per week when I’m only working in studio on sound design or music production and be away from the more corporate environment. It’s a nice balance feeding both sides of my brain.

JS: I usually like to close my interviews with one last question. What one piece of advice would you give to CMOs and brand managers who are looking to integrate sound into their brand?
TH: Acknowledge and appreciate the power of sound. Audio is often seen as a tactical thing which we add to a campaign or video in the last stages of the project. Think about sound at the very first instance when planning things and consider if you can make sound an essential and strategic component of your work, instead of “just a track in an ad”. And always remember that the audio side needs equally as much its own experts whether it is sound creation or strategic thinking.

I’d like to close by quoting the film director Robert Altman: “Cheapest thing in a great movie is good sound”.

JS: Thanks Tapio for your wonderful insights.

You can follow Tapio on Twitter @DJOrkidea

 Marketing Mavericks of Audio Branding – Tapio Hakanen, Nokia

About Jordan Stevens | Audio Brand Consultant at TreBrand


Almost born with a guitar in his hands Jordan Stevens has been instrumental in inspiring brands to stand out and be heard. His music has been performed internationally and on the silver screen including a premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Toronto International Film Festival.

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