20. Sep 2018

Megafon at TYPO Berlin 2018

Elena Kunau spoke with Alexander Wodrich, Managing Director of why do birds, at the TYPO Berlin 2018 about the importance of sound branding in today’s brand communication, as well as the cooperation with MegaFon, Russia’s leading mobile provider.

What do you think of TYPO Berlin this year?

I’m at TYPO Berlin for the first time this year and think it’s great. So far, I’ve thought that TYPO Berlin is rather for typographers, but I was wrong about that. I think it’s very good that designers and branding friends also get their money’s worth. I’d love to come back.

What role does branding play nowadays and what can you achieve with branding?

For me, branding is the only way that people can build a relationship with a brand. Everyone who wants to sell a product needs branding. Nowadays, products are becoming more and more similar and branding was and still is the most important means to successfully differentiate oneself from the competition.

A good 20 years ago you could be successful if you had an advertising spot on television. Today it is more complex. There is a much larger number of communication channels that need to be targeted to communicate a brand and its values.

Why is sound branding important for brand communication?

Branding translates the personality of a brand into sensual dimensions (hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting). For a better brand perception it is necessary to address all senses consistently. For example, when we hear the iPhone ringtone, we immediately associate it with the brand. The interplay of all senses makes the brand experience perfect – sound is a crucial building block. Unfortunately, few companies still deal with the sound of their brand and miss the opportunity to communicate and perceive it more effectively.

Which companies or industries should be involved with sound branding?

I would say that all companies that communicate via an acoustic channel (YouTube-channel, radio spots, films, telephone hotline) should deal with sound branding.

why do birds designed a sound logo for Megafon. Did you only deal with the sound logo or did you design the whole sound concept?

Besides the sound logo we also created the entire sound concept and produced the music for it.

How do you start when you want to create a sound concept?

It’s similar to the corporate design. First you need a guiding idea. You have to think about what the brand stands for and what the brand wants to express. Then we find the appropriate acoustic means to achieve these goals. In the case of MegaFon, it wasn’t that complicated. We closely followed the corporate design (developed by the agency Interbrand).

Interbrand developed a “Super-Sign” for MegaFon, which consisted of the already existing three points in the logo. They declared this super sign to be a hero and staged it very strikingly across all media. It was clear to us that we had to stage this element with sound. Three tones were created from the three dots to form an audiovisual unit.

How did the cooperation with MegaFon, a Russian company, come about?

We were lucky to have worked with Interbrand even before this project. That’s why Interbrand already knew us when they started the project with MegaFon. MegaFon is a big brand that communicates a lot about TV and social media. Interbrand and MegaFon immediately understood, that sound is an important branding building block for these communication channels. We then flew to Moscow and conducted a sound workshop with the entire branding and marketing team. Interbrand was also there, because they knew the brand very well. The sound workshop was very productive. The colleagues from MegaFon were very open and interested. They took the sound branding very seriously and wanted to do everything right with the sound.

The MegaFon commercials are strongly influenced by Russian music. MegaFon invited many well-known Russian singers to present the products. Did you also participate in this process or did MegaFon decide on the music style itself?

It is not the case that every music that MegaFon uses is also brand music. MegaFon has many cooperations with pop stars and uses music that is heard by young people. MegaFon is still developing the sound branding. They are already using the sound logo in all communications. The brand music is used at events and in the telephone queue. For TV campaigns, they still use big hits from the Russian charts. The tonality that we discussed in the workshop should clearly be young, fresh and dynamic. MegaFon wants to be passionate and lively and the sound clearly reflects that.

What did you have to take into consideration when creating the sound concept (sound logo concept)?

The 3 points in the visual are a nice eye-catching stumbling block in the design. We integrated our 3 tones syncopically in a 4/4 rhythm. This deliberately looks a bit bumpy, but is a good moment that creates attention and high recognition.

The listening habits in Russia are somewhat different from those in Germany. The music is generally more electronic, louder and more technoid. We noticed that very quickly and adapted accordingly. We also analyzed music that MegaFon has used in the past and music that is popular in Russia. Our aim was not to change people’s perception or to adapt the sound to our listening habits. Nevertheless, it can be said that the new brand music would also work well in Germany.

Do you like Russian music?

Well…I’m not so technoid. I like it a bit calmer, not quite so loud.

What was the central acoustic idea?

We had the idea with the three tones and an additional fourth tone, a yell. MegaFon is customer-centered. “Everything starts with you” was the guiding principle. “Everything” can be replaced by anything as a placeholder. In the design 3 points, in the sound 3 tones or rhythmic beats. With the “you” we thought of a human being and a euphoric moment. It can be heard in the yell.

Have you also prepared a sound guideline for MegaFon?

We have formulated a guideline on how to deal with the sound logo and integrate it into communication. Guidelines are especially important for agencies to understand how the sound logo can be used.

How long did the project take?

The core project took about two to three months, but the market research took a lot of time. There was a lot of feedback on the different directions. In the end, the direction with the Super Sign was chosen and we created different sound logo versions and experimented a lot. It took about five to six months to complete the project.

What challenges did you have during the project? Did additional organizational preparations have to be made?

The most difficult part was obtaining the visa. It always took a very long time to get a visa and therefore we couldn’t arrange short-term appointments. There were no language barriers as the MegaFon team also speaks good English.

How did you feel about working with MegaFon?

The participants of MegaFon were happy and had a lot of fun. For them the topic was new and we ourselves were very curious how the cooperation would work, as they had no experience with sound branding yet. The cooperation was very harmonious throughout the whole process and was characterized by great trust in us.

Can you imagine working with Russian companies in the future as well?

Yes, very much. Moscow is a fascinating city. I love to explore new cultures. And: we have always been lucky with the weather. I would like to go there again.


Elena Kunau was born in Russia and has been studying Communication Design at the HTW Berlin since 2016. In addition to her studies, she helps public institutions with the implementation of design projects on a voluntary basis and supports various design events as a volunteer. Her passion is typography and font design as well as their combination with acoustic elements.