• John Ennis

Jeanna Isham - Sound Ideas


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Jeanna Isham has 15+ years of audio experience. Starting in film composition and production music, she evolved into the world of sonic branding and sound identities as a creator, strategist and thought leader. Her company, Dreamr Productions, creates audio identities for companies and brands, as well as consults and educates brands and marketers on sound in marketing and its best practices. Jeanna also produces, hosts, and edits the Sound In Marketing Podcast.


Dreamr Productions is a subsidiary of Stage Ham Entertainment LLC, a full service audio/video production company based out of Pasadena, CA.


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Transcript (Semi-automated, forgive typos!)


John: So, Jeanna, welcome to the show.


Jeanna: Hi, thanks for having me, John.


John: I have to admit, it's a little nerve racking hosting you who is a better podcast host than I am on my show. So anyway, so I think it's good for our listeners who maybe aren't familiar with you and your company in your work. If we could hear a little bit of your kind of origin story and your background is in music, maybe that would be a good place to start and then talk about how you've taken. I think you're quite an interesting path to get to where you are kind of interacting, you know, between marketing and music.


Jeanna: Sure. Yeah. I started a music. I have a bachelors in music composition, and my intention was to either be the next Sarah McLaughlin or the female John Williams. That was how I exited college, is that was my goal. And that didn't happen. I get stage fright pretty bad and I'm also hypercritical of my performance. So the live performing did not last long. And I realized that writing was much more interesting and more important to me than performing. So I became the writer. I liked to be behind the scenes and I kept doing the score work. But that's really hard to get. That's very few and far between. And then I stumbled onto production music and I was able to write songs and submit them to libraries and sometimes get them placed. When I first got involved in it, my first placement was actually in the last season of Oprah, which was really exciting, but I was really bummed it was the last season because that was very good payout. So anyways, but you have to continually write and write and write and you have no idea where it's going to go most of the time unless you get that wonderful connection with the music supervisor and they say, write this exactly. So I didn't really like it very much because I was just writing what I liked or what was topical at the moment, which is dangerous because you never know when that is going to change in that topical thing, won't be topical next year. So like, for instance, I remember the big one to get your stuff on was Toddlers and Tiaras, and then it was Duck Dynasty. And then it was like the Kardashians. I think I have it in the wrong order. But then the next year that was not the IT thing. And so it was really, really hard to figure out what to write. And so I got really tired of that because I work much better with guidelines and structure and understanding what I'm writing for. So flash forward, many years and I was approached or actually no strike that. So when I was doing the production music, I had this tie to Harpo Studios, which is part of Oprah and now the own network, and they were looking for a new or they were rebranding their visual logo and they needed a sonic logo to go with it. And I think that was the first time I ever heard the word sonic logo. So I wrote for it. And I think there was like 100 submissions. Mine and four others went to Lady Oh and she actually was to it. Passed on mine, it was too masculine, apparently. And but it was very, very exciting because I got that far and Oprah who's huge even now, that was a big deal. And so that was the first introduction to sonic branding, even though it was a sonic logo. But that was my first introduction to the idea of it. And then flash forward, many years later, I got approached to write functional sound for a piece of hardware and I got it. Like he explained what he was looking for. He goes, that sounds great. And I was like, okay, well, I'm going to write you three drafts, even though that was against my better judgment to write before getting paid. But I wrote three drafts ideas and I said, let me know if this is kind of what you're looking for. And he goes, I like the second one. Send it to me, here's your check. And I was like, wow, that's really cool. Like, this was my first draft. And so it was really exciting to realize that I could read a company like I could understand what it was that they were looking for and their intentions and represent it in sound. And so that was very, very exciting. And so that kind of started my journey into just researching. And I had this was I think this is in 2013 or 2014. I think I was 14. And so I said a Google alert for sonic branding and sound identity and all of these stuff. And this is how new the articles in the research was. I would get maybe one Google alert a week if that.


John: Oh wow.


Jeanna: Yeah. And it was not even for what I was searching for. It was like this offset of sort of sonic branding or whatever. So nobody was talking about it, at least in my network. So I just kept doing my own research and finding the people that were talking about it got really heavy into LinkedIn because that's where those people were for me and started to find the sources of the information as they started to write it kind of in real time. And alongside that, I started writing mostly to remember, to be cognitively aware of what I was learning and remember it because I don't always have the best memory. And so then I started the podcast because there wasn't as much written about it, but there were people talking about it. So I started interviewing these people and learning a little bit more. And then I was writing more and yeah. And then I started to get the connections that I needed to to actually have the conversation that I was understanding as it was developing and got connected with some companies and some individuals was able to write some more, was able to consult some more. And from that, I've just been doing a lot of networking because the way that I see it is education comes first. And whenever I talk to people about the importance of sound in their marketing, it makes sense to them once I talk about it. But it's such an obscure thought. And it's a way of thinking that a lot of people don't turn their brain in that direction. So soon as you can kind of like point them in the right direction, it's inspiring and exciting to see. Like, you see like the light bulbs go off and they're like, oh, I get it. Oh, okay, that's attainable. I understand that. That's accessible. And so that's kind of been my my focus lately is to bring people together, to talk about it and to educate on what I've learned thus far with my music background and my love for marketing, fusing the two and trying to just make it accessible. Make it in a way that people were like, well, okay, if I apply it this way, then it makes sense. So that's what I've been doing. And I've been trying to bring together other voice industry people as well to kind of talk, because if we're only talking in our own subset, so if I'm just talking to Sonic Branders, we only have that piece of the puzzle. But I'm talking to UX and UI Designers and the Sonic Branders and the agencies and the data scientists and the developers, all of them have another piece of the sound and voice industry story. And I feel that the more we talk, the more we're going to get ideas that we can bring into our subset and make this field that much stronger and help it to build up that much faster.


John: Right. And I would add another group of people to that list that you should talk to more sensory scientists.


Jeanna: Yes. And I starting to do that.


John: Yes, because I think there is a huge opportunity within sensory to start to think about which sounds and actually, I do want to talk to you about sound versus music. That's interesting distinction, too, in terms of that, it may not be that it's a piece of music that's compatible with some sensory experience. It might be tones or rhythms or other, you know, musical elements that would be relevant. But before we get into that, I do want to talk to you a little bit about your course, because I think your course is something that listeners of the podcast should check out. I think it would be really informative for them. So can you talk a little bit about this new course that you mentioned?


Jeanna: Sure. So with all of this research and discussions and everything that I've learned in the past 4 or 5 years, I felt it really important to get some kind of educational structure around it so that people can grasp it. So I can only be in one place at one time. But if I could start an online course and kind of just like skim the surface of some stuff so that people can really start to be inspired and think on their own about this, I think that's a huge deal. So I just I'm releasing the pre-order January 4th of my course that will be coming out February 1st. And it's called Sounds Power and Influence in Marketing. So in it, we discuss the history of sound and not recorded sound, but actual sound like the beginning of time sound and how that has worked into our life. Then we get into the history of advertising and that is also before radio advertising, but more word of mouth and oral tradition and how that's worked into things. Then we go into radio advertising and then into Internet marketing and what the Internet brought, that is huge now. That has just exploded this voice revolution and really sensory revolution, in my opinion, because it is now an immersive audio experience, but it's an immersive customer experience, really. So we talk about that and what the Internet has brought and what's available to us because of it. Then we talk a little bit more about purchase power in sound and how your brain actually reacts to sound. And yeah, so that that's the first course. And then I'll get into sonic branding in the next course and all of that. But this is just the beginning.


John: Right. This is very interesting. I mean, like, okay, so much of kind of directions here. One thing I gave a talk yesterday and kind of one of the big conferences in our field called neuroscience, where my kind of thesis was that augmented reality is coming and that we will soon be in this kind of augmented existence where it won't be a virtual reality. I think that's fifth industrial revolution. And when that happens, that's its own conversation. When we upload our brains and computer, I'm never getting a computer back. But right now, the fourth industrial revolution, I think that what's happening is computing everywhere, this augmented experience. I think that I don't know. I'd be extra curious to hear your thoughts on this, but it seems to me inevitable that we will all before too long have very small speakers in our ears that will be reacting to things around us providing just like if you wear glasses that have additional visual information, we'll have to think about the airpods, how we're almost there, that those are going to get smaller and smaller to the point you're going to see them, but they'll be providing this like enriched experience. So what are your, I just want to get your kind of thoughts on that as far as this augmented environment, what do you see as some of the opportunities, either for marketers or for people that are trying to enrich the sensory experience of the product? If you were to have the ability to just make sounds for people in this kind of like personalized way, what would be some of the things you'd be thinking about in terms of enriching someone's experience?


Jeanna: Well, just to let you know, what you described actually is sort of happening now because there's there's hearing aids, but then there's also hearables and so it's not just for the hard of hearing, but it does actually create a more immersive experience right now. But there is one thing that is really cool that I was aware of several months ago, but Microsoft has this thing called Microsoft soundscapes. And what they do for that is that is also for the blind. And what they have is and I'm going to describe it not quite right, but look it up because it's really cool. But basically what they did was they put into like Google Maps or some sort of it. They have tones and it's a beacon sound. And so, like you can talk to your phone and say, I want to go to, you know, school of psychology. You know, you're on a campus, let's say college campus. And I want to go to the school of psychology. And so it will start beeping in the direction it'll be directional sound in the direction of that building that you want to go to. And it's in a way that it's non disruptive. It's not like an annoying kind of thing, but it's something that kind of tells you, okay, you're going in the right direction. And again, it's directional sound. So it's not like hearing it all around you. You're hearing it in the direction you want to go. And I believe it speeds up or something changes as you're getting there. It also will tell you, like if that's a bus stop that you always stop at, it'll let you know that it's John's bus stop or something like that. So, you know your surroundings and where you're at. So that is really cool. And obviously that's for the sight impaired. But if they're coming up with that sort of thing, that's just the the tipping point. But I feel also with I think there's real opportunity in this because movie theaters, we can't go to them anymore. And so people are most likely investing in their home studio right now. We already have it, but that's because my husband is a filmmaker. So that was many years ago that we invested in our projector and our surround sound and everything. But I feel like with the immersive customer experience, which we are in right now, and that happened before covid, but it's more so right now. Sound has this opportunity of really playing a big part in our entertainment, but also in information. It's a part of how we drive. It's a part of how we walk around on the street with the soundscape thing. There's sound everywhere and this is kind of what I preaches. Let's make sound on purpose. It's already there. So you're already emitting something, but now it's time to be intentional about it, not just so that your brand is more sincere, but because it makes a difference. People are paying attention to this. And if you're not paying attention, you're missing out on an opportunity.


John: Right. Now that is fascinating and so with sonic branding, you'll have some, I guess, brand concepts, you've got, you know, the kind of because the thing is, there's marketing, you know, pure marketing, I think tends to be more conceptual. Whereas in sensory science, we're more, you know, it's more about the actual product experience. So with sonic branding, you're taking some sort of marketing concepts or brand concepts and then trying to compliment them. Can you take us through that process? Describe a little bit. You know what are the things that you're thinking about when you're developing? I mean, is it sounds or is it music? Is there always music or is it sometimes just tones and sounds?

Jeanna: It can be anything. And the way I like to describe it, because we all kind of understand the importance of visual. So if you were to design your visual style guide, just going going with deciding what font you're going to use, what colorscape you're going to use and what your logo looks like. So let's say you design all of those things. If you switch up your font to something crazy on one page and another thing on another page, that's going to disorient people. Your logo is one way on your website and another way on your letterhead that's going to confuse people. You have to have uniformity over all of your different touch points. And it's the same thing with sound. There are audio touch points just like there's visual touch points. And so if you play ska music in your video campaign, but then you are more in tune like in your brick and mortar, you play classical music that's confusing, you know, and then if you change it up all the time, if you, you know, change up that classical and you switch to rap or something like that, that's confusing. So you have to stay consistent over all of your different touch points or you're not being sincere and you're not going to get any kind of loyal consumer because it's just confusing. So what I like to do is I like to think of it as what don't you sound like? And then we'll go from there, because I think that I'm a lot more accessible to people if you can like dualist and even if it is music. So we start with music. What music do you not hear associated with your brand? And then if you can't think of your brand specific, if you can think of your industry, what does your industry sound like? And that might be hard, but for example, an outdoor brand, what does an outdoor brand sound like? And in my head and again, this is all perception and everything, in my head, I think of Aria. Let's say, I think of birds chirping, crackling, camp fires, rustling of leaves, boots crunching, all of those sorts of things. And with that, you can get a sense of what is around you or what the person is trying to put in front of you. So if you think of as simple as that and maybe it's not simple for everyone. But it's baby steps. Yeah. If that helps. And the other thing, too, is there can be people that are really excited about sound and sound marketing and they're like, okay, we're all in. We want a whole brand package. Well, they may not be ready for it, so we need to figure out where they live now. Do a complete audit of what their company is and where it lands, what audio touch points they actually have accessible to them right now, because for all we know, a sonic logo is all they need or they just need some functional sound. And to explain functional sound, that would be ringtones, hold music, sounds that you push buttons on apps, that sort of thing. So maybe that's all that they need. And maybe they don't have enough of a president presence online or otherwise that it's just not time yet. But it's really important to come up with a strategy rather than be reactionary, because if you do that, you're treating sound marketing as a fad, a phase and that's not what it is.

John: Right. Try and provide this comprehensive experience associated with the brand identity. We're talking about part of the identity. Well, let me ask you this, because I think this is going to be coming as these hearables become more commonplace and as you have basically smart everything as there's going to be, you know, I mean, it's going to be the case that even individual rappers for packages are going to have little bits of technology and they communicate when the package has been opened. I mean, that's going to come online, right? That everything is going to have some intelligence to it. So if you had the opportunity to develop a sound that were to go along with a particular food product, for example, suppose you're going to you have the ability to put whatever you want in someone's ears as they're eating, say, a Snickers bar. What would be, well, how would you even start to think about, like, enriching the experience of, say, eating a candy bar or eating or maybe drinking a beverage, if you had that opportunity, what would be the sorts of things you would start thinking about?


Jeanna: Probably adjectives. Like how would you describe it? How would you describe what it looks like? How would you describe the experience? How would you describe the feeling? Is there a nostalgia to it? But just writing down a lot of adjectives, because you'd be surprised if looking at adjectives, you could describe them in sound form or they could relate to a sound form in one way or another. Just kind of a stream of consciousness in that way to really break down what that Snickers bar stands for. What is it that you're trying to have your customer experience? It's probably a lot and I don't know, taste as much tastes sensory. But I would imagine it's something that they would explore as well. Just breaking it down and seeing what the experience is in written form and then extracting from that what it could be sensorially.

John: That's fascinating because in the past decade in sensory, emotions have been a very hot topic. And you're making me think that if a company has already done emotion's research for brands, they could then come to you potentially with that list of emotions. These are the emotions that people associate. And that would give you a starting point for developing some sort of sound that would complement the experience.


Jeanna: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, I think anybody that's exploring, even visual marketing, if they've already got that stuff in place, there's something to work with. It's just a matter of coming to somebody that could think outside of that. And I'm saying not just a sonic brander, but like somebody that's not so close to the company, you know what I'm saying? Like, it's an outsider that can bring in perspective of what they're putting out there and what that person is actually getting from what they're putting out there. Because for all they know, they could think that they're defining their brand in one way. And then somebody comes back at them and says, oh, this is what you're actually putting out there. And that could actually be a little shocking. Like I wrote a song a long time ago that I thought was like very like Disney, happy. And then somebody came back and licensed it for their horror short and they thought it was creepy and awesome. Like, well, that was not my intention. So whenever you step back from something and let somebody analyze what you're putting out there, you might be surprised what you're actually putting out there.

John: Fascinating. All right. Well, I would love to keep talking to you, but we have are actually a little bit short on time, so I want to make sure we get your advice, too, because I would say one of the things I've been impressed by with you is not just you, by the way, I would recommend that everyone follow Jeanna or connect with you on LinkedIn because you post a lot of really interesting stuffs and I enjoy following you.


Jeanna: Thank you.


John: And I would recommend your podcast as well. But what would the other bits of advice that you would give to kind of young professionals? You know, because I think you've done a really admirable job of kind of finding your own way and finding something you're interested in, which is related to but not exactly what you started out doing. What advice would you have for some young person, maybe just finished graduate school starting their career, like in order to kind of find their own calling in life?


Jeanna: I would try and find something that's an offset of what you were studying, if that makes sense. So, like, it's so important to get a bigger picture. And so when you are tunnel vision in like this, you're missing things that are just barely off of the surface of what you're working on. So, for example, I was totally focused on music and then it wasn't until my husband and I merged our companies that I was like, oh, marketing, I need to figure this out because I don't know how to market him and marketing us together. And that's where that came from. And so just not being afraid to, like, follow kind of a question mark. This happens to me a lot and something intrigues me and I follow it and it comes to fruition in a way I could never have thought. But if I had ignored that, like, oh, maybe I should read that marketing article. I would miss so much and I would just be focusing on this one element of me when there's so many different elements that make me kind of like of senses. There's five senses. There's more one direction that I feel that people can be in, if that makes sense. So don't be afraid to explore, I guess. Don't be afraid to explore.


John: Right. Now that's fascinating. It's actually reminds me of this little journey, I'm on learning about sound because I really feel strongly that as a sensory scientists need to embrace sound. We need to start to work with sound as much as we work with taste and smell. There's huge opportunities. I think connecting with people like you and talking to people like you, I've already, I mean, for example, you said about emotions or about adjectives, that was really very helpful. So, yeah, there's a lot of benefit, I think, to this kind of dialogues. So, it has been great. So how can people connect with you? How can they find you? If they have questions or they want to hire you.


Jeanna: Yeah. As you mentioned, I'm very active on LinkedIn. That's probably a great place to find me. I'm learning the Twitter. I'm not as good at it, but I'm working on it. I fought it for a really long time, but I was like, there's a lot of people in there. So I'm on Twitter as well. But find me on LinkedIn. You can connect with me on my website. You can also go the link will be in here. But soundinmarketing.Com that will be the information on my course. But yeah, just follow all of the links in the show notes and I'll at least say hello back.


John: That's great. Alright. Well, thanks a lot for being on the show. This has been great.


Jeanna: Thanks, John.


John: Okay, that's it. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you did, please help us grow our audience by telling your friend about AigoraCast and leaving us a positive review on iTunes. Thanks.



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