Martin Pasquier

Explorer and experimenter of social media, digital, and IRL stuff - Now in Singapore


Brands, “sound mapping” and experiential marketing on social media

June 19, 2012

Paris is busy these days with its digital world festival, known as Futur en Seine. A kind of broader SXSW, where anyone interested in 3D printing, connected cities, open-data or API games can come, see, and also play for real with brilliant kids, smart lecturers and odd machines. PIC

This morning, I went to a workshop on « sound mapping ». The issue is quite interesting as I’m my self a « mapper » (of social media data, mostly), and a dreamer enough to love hear a sound with eyes wide shut. The research team of the « Topophonie » project lead a creative session with many projects shown to help us understand the link between geography, space, sound and data.

The world didn’t wait – hopefully – for social media nor the internet to be able to represent sound and space in one item. R Murray Schafer, a musician, composer and former Professor of Communication Studies at Simon Fraser University, wrote a masterpiece on this issue, The Tuning of the World, in 1977. This historical investigation had quite a few « primitive » research on how sound and space or time could be represented together.

Sound & Space, 1977 style

Today, social media is on the verge of allowing spatial representation and maps to be upgraded with a sound layer that can change our perception of a given environment, some research even suggest we could get rid of the usual map and focus on quasi-abstract sound « maps » that looks like a Kandinsky painting.

Let’s take a look at Navidium, a software used to create one’s own maps. You first decide what will be the base map : an « actual » geographical map, or whatever pic you want to toy with, it can be a tree if you want so. Then, you draw shapes and boxes on this base map, which will be as many clusters where to add a media. This media will be a sound, in our case, but you could add almost any media you want to appear, such as an interview. Then, your map is ready : just fly your mouse over the shapes you created and have the media played in real time. This demo of the city of Bordeaux, in France, shows the level of detail you can have.

That’s when I began to have my brain getting hot, thinking of how brands could use sound map devices to have an original and experiential marketing on social media (the advantage being the this kind of experience is more universal than a traditional brand message that you have to translate, adapt, and shape according to each market’s tastes). Here’s a few ideas I’d like to share with you :

  • A local brand, such as a public transportation brand, is obviously compatible with a sound map. Why not a sound map of the areas crossed by a bus where one could hear the atmosphere of previous decades or centuries ? or of a big event, such as the tale of a previous revolution ?
  • « Sound » brands could also play with our representation of space. The music industry could locate in each big city the various sound of the local artists, creating a « trend map » of emerging tones.
  • A resort or a travel spot could also play with sound to seduce swinging customers. Seeing the landscape and being able to hear it from various places could be a could way to help them decide to book it.
  • Luxury brands are another industry that could easily play with this experiential marketing content. LVMH, for instance, could propose a « travel sounds » map of every inspirational city to become an intimate companion of your future journeys. The Economist could add this sound layer to their existing « Thinking Spaces » maps.
  • Last but not least, property developers, city councils and real estate profesionals should take advantage of sound maps to attract new inhabitants and add to their goods the value of silence (or noise, if you like it). French cities of more than 100 000 hab. will have to show this « sound map » of night and day noise.

The noise map of Nancy : where do you want to live ?

To open another fascinating debate on these sound maps, the research team behind Topophonie talked of the citizens as sensors (which, in turn, create a “volunteer geography”), where everyone becomes a producer of geotagged experiential content. I really hope some cool app will become popular with these sound maps. You could check Spott, which restrains a content consumption to the spot where it has been created.

Martin Pasquier

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