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Developing the first sonic identity for Colgate with MassiveMusic | #BehindTheIdea

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Inspired by Mastercard and McDonald's in their respective sectors, Colgate saw a 'white space' in FMCG to tap into the realm of audio branding, and following their recent brand refresh, the time was right to start expanding the brand in this whole new direction too.

With this in mind, Colgate saw an opportunity to stand out and partnered with MassiveMusic London to develop a distinctive sound identity, one that could resonate with customers and strengthen brand awareness globally. By incorporating Colgate's Optimism in Action core brand promise, MassiveMusic worked to define optimism musically, and in the short timeframe of about 7 months, the new sonic identity was complete.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea to learn more about this project, following a chat with Joe Bush, Creative Strategist at MassiveMusic London.

What was the brief?

When we pitched, Colgate had just finished refreshing its visual identity and a sonic identity was the last piece of the puzzle. They saw a clear opportunity to stand out within the oral care sector by owning the sonic branding ‘white space’ within FMCG, inspired by the likes of Mastercard and McDonald’s in their respective sectors. Colgate wanted to develop a distinctive and flexible sound that could live across its 200+ markets, have global appeal and relevance, offer new opportunities to distinguish the brand from the sector, and importantly be recalled by consumers. 

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

We sat down as a group and got as many heads together as possible. There's always a lot of ideas floating around a project of this size, we spent a while trying to figure out what the Colgate 'nurdle' toothpaste shape sounds like, if you can sing a song whilst brushing your teeth, the technically most optimistic musical key amongst many others. From there, it was a big refinement process, figuring out which ideas resonate with Colgate's vision and importantly fall in line with our strategy. 

Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

Incorporating Colgate’s core brand promise of 'Optimism in Action' was crucial to the success of this project. So we decided to define optimism in music in a very detailed way, partly because we're music nerds but also to remove as much subjectivity from the process as possible. To do this we spoke to some of the world’s leading academics, ethnomusicologists and neuroscientists to establish what ingredients our sonic brand would need, to be unequivocally 'optimistic'. Findings included things like the sound of humming being a universally accepted human expression of wellbeing and the key of D Major topping the key signature optimism charts. This meant we decided to use humming as the primary sound for the sonic logo, we also blended both female and male tones before recording the 2-second sonic logo to sound authentic and natural.

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What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

The pandemic certainly provided its fair share of challenges, with lockdowns introduced and forcing us to work remotely. But despite this, the process was still incredibly collaborative. The Colgate team was so open and thoughtful and willing to get involved in the process. A lot of the people there have been with the business for quite some time, so they’re very invested in the success of the brand; they know it intimately. From a production perspective, we had refined our remote process by the time this project came about, with lots of remote studio sessions, stress testing and, on the rare occasion that we could get in the same room, some group listening and ideation.

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

One notable moment was when we started to simplify the sonic logo, there was a long refinement process for this asset, but the optimism in action concept became clearer and more resonant the more we stripped it back. The rawer the vocal sound more natural optimism shone through, and I'm really proud of where we ended up.

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What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

To support Colgate's brand mission of spreading the optimism in action message globally. Now a distinct, memorable sonic brand can enhance this across all touchpoints. Sound, in particular, is an incredible carrier of emotion, so what better way to spread this message than with a sonic brand designed to make you smile from ear to ear.

What is one unique aspect of the campaign?

Colgate’s new sonic identity is completely backed by science. From the ideation stages we knew we wanted to ground the music in science; to back-up our creative thinking with proof that it was going to be effective in driving recall and was in harmony with the brand. The process helped take all subjectivity out of the equation, so we were left with a highly impactful sonic brand.

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How long did it take from inception to delivery?

After the successful pitch, the initial scope of work took about 7 months to complete. Our relationship with Colgate continues to grow and we have some really exciting new work in the pipeline. 

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

Colgate is a brand used by millions, and we hope that by creating a memorable, modern, flexible sonic brand that can be stretched into different genres and work across all product offerings, Colgate can reach even more people spanning across more cultures and regions.

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