We recently met Alessandro Lotto, Founder and CEO of Commusications Rain Ltd. A graduate in Engineering, Alessandro is the only Italian attending the Masters in Business Administration “MBA for the Music and Creative Industries” course at Henley Business School (UK), considered by The Economist, first worldwide for network quality.
Alessandro currently works for various companies as a Temporary Manager. At just 40 years of age, Alessandro is one of the youngest TMs to have achieved the position of Chief Executive of a media company in Italy, obtaining results which have made him a known name in his industry.
AL: Commusications Rain Ltd. is a company based in London that connects UK audio branding professionals with Italian companies which have huge popularity but poor sound identity.
Why the London choice? Because in the UK, and particularly in London, there is the culture and the right mood to generate the appropriate “strategic conversations” and the potential to create big audio-branding ideas that go quite a lot further the seasoned audio-logos.
I am talking about those strategies that connect psycho-acoustic, artist partnership, real music creation, and sound user experience all in one. You need lots of experience and knowledge to create the right balance, and in Italy there isn’t much of either.
Indeed, sound is a quite abstract subject to talk about, and often the conversation about sound attributes, that should mirror the brand (visual) attributes, has to be done directly with the entrepreneur themself. In fact fewer than 1% of Italian companies have more than 50 employees, but despite their small size, it’s REALLY surprising how much worldwide brand popularity some of them have.
How can you imagine are these conversations?
“Here we have the 13th release of the brand’s audio logo that sounds “more square” and sounds “more yellow” as you requested, what do you think boss?”
“Uh, it is fine but I would have expect it to sound “more spicy”!”
There are two ways to avoid such a time-consuming and expensive trial and error process. These two ways are:
1) Spread audio-branding culture so the next time you could have a more appropriate conversation;
2) Be authoritative so to earn the client’s trust, that the sound solutions for their brand will be really the best choice! Limit conversations to a minimum and then gain the trust that belongs to those who have the most powerful weapons, those in this case are the best audio-branding professionals on the planet.
Actually I tried both: the first one with a “3 seconds” sound platform project but I didn’t find the funds; and the second one, by basing the company in London.
EP: There are a lot of Italian manufacturing companies that could really benefit from being identified with musical artists – and yet they don’t yet seem to have tapped into that market. Why do you think this is, and how do you think the situation can be remedied?
AL: For an Italian company, being connected with a music artist or even a sound is a big choice that happens only a few times in the whole story of a firm. The company needs to be reassured that they are not going to be disappointed because the risk is that, in case of a wrong connection between the brand and an artist or a sound, the damage to the brand’s reputation and image are enormous.
There have been too few occasions during which both Italian entrepreneurs and their influencers (marketing manager, professionals, etc) have been exposed to a conversation on audio-branding. So there is not enough confidence to take such a risk.
There are for sure great musicians, great sound engineers and great marketers but audio-branding is a different task.
Commusications can say: “Hey man, British professionals give you the best audio-branding ideas on the planet, so don’t worry and let us work on the fundamentals”.
Given the fundamentals, in terms of strategy, audio-branding “tools”, main sound attributes, etc. there will be an idiom common enough to continue the conversation in a shared vision and language.
EP: You’ve been studying for an MBA in Music, but your background is in Engineering. How did you come to have this interest? Is there a way of combining the two?
AL: I should actually have a degree in narrative, as it is the real common ground between Engineering (trust me, it is a truly epic challenge) and Music, which is just stories in sound (actually I am on the board of the “Italian Corporate Storytelling Centre” at Pavia University: www.storytellinglab.org).
I have always tried to live narratively at 360 degrees. The engineering frame of mind allowed me to face one of the most difficult jobs in the corporate world, which is interim management: in general a management position of companies whose shareholders, management and employees I promise a narrative of innovation, stability and growth and in certain case it is a matter of life/death of the company itself.
On the other hand, I estimate to have collected at least 1.000 hours of honourable conversations on the ways to change the world (quite narrative scope again…) with my post-rock band mates and, earlier (before my 9-year old son was born), with my electronic music project pair.
Concerning the combination of the two worlds, my Music MBA at the Henley Business School itself can be actually located in the middle of a red line that connects analytical mind framework (typical of the engineer) and the music business world.
It doesn’t matter from which side you start, if the final common point is the middle, which is likely the home base that will make the difference.
Who knows which side is the best one to approach in order to arrive to this middle sweet point?
EP: Talk to us about how music affects you, and the role you feel music can play in brand identification.
AL: There has been a period during which I lived in a world of numbers, maths, and abstract concepts but in almost complete isolation. I was not able to communicate to my friends my emotions and even ideas.
Then I discovered the music “language” that is a powerful way to communicate concepts and emotional moods. It was not a matter of making music (which I did) or of listening to music (which I did), but talking about it! In a music-oriented conversation, you can understand very quickly the mood of your mate. “In such a period I listened to Korn a lot”, tells a lot about your friend.
Regarding the role of music and sound in brand identification the main principle is that, in the consumer’s mind, sound is a way to communicate meanings less codified than the “visual” corporate messages.
I will give you an example: a red stripe in a packaging will be quickly decoded by consumers as the willing of the marketers to make the product/service feel “sexier”; this awareness confirms that the media is culturally mature but makes us also lose the magic effect.
But what about music? Is its effect still “magic”? I think so, because the average brand’s customer does not really know in which way a sound make him feels nervous, energetic or touched. For audio-branding experts, this means that it will be easier to build mind hooks appropriate for the brand.
EP: Is there a particular style of music you’re looking for, or do you feel all musical genres can be adapted to Italian manufacturing companies?
AL: In this environment, “anything goes”. The point is to make sense of the choice.
For example, there is a storytelling technique called “counter-narrative” used to make people talk about a brand doing an apparently very bad marketing choice… but actually that is a deliberate project to help direct rumours in a way that can be planned and controlled.
So what about matching a heavy metal band with a baby soap brand!
EP: How would an interested artist go about getting their music associated with an Italian manufacturing company?
AL: Maybe Commusications could reach out to artists who are coherent to a brand through the pages of Essentially Pop?
EP: Is there anything that we’ve not yet addressed that you’d like to add?
AL: Anyone who has experience in the audio-branding industry and for any reason loves the idea of working with Italian brands can visit www.commusications.org and contact me at email@example.com