Carl-Frank Westermann at the Berlin branding agency MetaDesign believes that sound should be an integral part of a company's brand.
"If corporate design is the face of the company, corporate sound is the voice," he declares. "Music is just one part of the mix. What we're doing is branding a whole sound mood."
German engineering and electronics giant Siemens, in its quest to redesign its corporate identity, came to Westermann in 2002. Siemens already had ticked the usual boxes: new typeface, fresh logo, fashionable colors. But something was missing. For a company in the business of communication, its identity was deafeningly silent. Says communications director Juergen Barthel: "Our brand needed more emotion."
Westermann says the sounds and syncopated rhythms created by his team of 10 composers were inspired by Siemens' core values, its history, and the Fibonacci series—a pattern of numbers found in nature by a 13th-century mathematician. Yes, there's an aural logo for Siemens' television and radio advertising. But Westermann also furnished Siemens with a complete toolbox of sounds and acoustic signals to experiment with on TV, radio, and the Internet, at trade fairs—even in its telephone hold music. Enough sound, Siemens hopes, to put customers in the mood.
A version of this article appeared in the January 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.