Interview with Kathy Landon, Vice President of Branding and Professional Services, Sonic
Topic: Sonic Rebranding - New Look, New Logo, & New Product Coming Soon!
CAROLYN SMAKA: Today I'm speaking with Kathy Landon, Vice President of Branding and Professional Services at Sonic Innovations. Kathy, it's been about a year ago that Sonic Innovations was acquired by William Demant Holding Group, and Sonic has recently undergone a re-branding project. Can you give us an overview?
KATHY LANDON: I'd be happy to. It's been a great year at Sonic as part of the William Demant Holding Group. It has been very interesting to integrate into the broader family and to work within the strategy of a three-brand company. As you know, under the Demant umbrella is Oticon, Bernafon and now Sonic. Over the past six months, we have been clarifying how Sonic fits within this brand structure. Each WDH company has its own 'DNA' - things that are important to the brand and define the types of products and services they offer. For Sonic, we wanted to be true to our heritage while positioning ourselves within the broader context of the other WDH brands, and within the market as a whole.
SMAKA: What can professionals expect to see with the rebranding?
LANDON: One of the most outward things they are going to notice is a whole new look for the Sonic brand. However, the visuals are only a small part of the way that we have treated the project. With the acquisition by William Demant, we have new management working with people like me who have been with the company for a long time. With these groups coming together, we have had interesting employee meetings to address the question, "What is Sonic to you?"
Even before going to our customers, we felt it was important to understand internally who we were. As a global company, we discovered that there were geographic differences in the way the product was sold, supported and managed. However, there were some common themes that we all deemed to be part of the foundation of Sonic, such as the emphasis on speech clarity and understanding, the focus on natural-sounding products, the track record of stylish products, and our predilection for simple, easy-to-use solutions. We used these things as the foundation for clarifying our vision for the company, and to really focus our mission and values, and how we want to be perceived by ourselves and our customers. We then re-examined the logo, the tagline, and the brand identity. Until we could get clear on who we were, it didn't make sense to just say "Let's make a new logo."
SMAKA: Right. It is not about "let's go with blue, or let's go with green."
LANDON: Exactly. The logo and colors are secondary to the message you want to communicate. In addition to examining our brand essentials - our mission, vision and values, we looked at how we identify with customers. We went through an exercise where we asked ourselves, What is the tonality of the message? When we talk to people, how do we want them to identify with us? Are we friendly? Are we approachable? Are we fun? Identifying these types of factors can easily translate into the visuals and the logo. A company's visual presence has to support the way you are going to interact with people, regardless of the format.
SMAKA: It actually sounds like a lot of fun to go through this exercise and to sharpen and reaffirm your brand image.
LANDON: It has been fantastic. Additionally, being able to work closely with my Sonic colleagues in other markets throughout this process has been immensely rewarding. I feel like we have been given the opportunity to unify ourselves and show our customers who we really are.
SMAKA: Tell me more about your new mission statement.
LANDON: Originally, our mission statement said that we wanted to improve life through enhanced hearing, and that part of our mission statement remains exactly the same. Ultimately, it is why we make hearing solutions. One of the things that we have added is a secondary point about how we deliver this: Everyday Sounds Better.
It's very simple, and I like the duality of it. It can mean two things. It can mean everyday sounds are made better, such as conversations, the phone ringing, television. But there is also the aspirational side of it, as in with Sonic, each day sounds better. For a consumer, we're saying every day of your life will be improved. From a business to business perspective, we're saying that we're going to help your business get better. It's a great aspiration for us to have.
SMAKA: And what are the core values?
LANDON: Prior to this exercise we had seven core values and we have consolidated those to three: Creative, Dedicated and Energetic. We feel these are the values that make a difference to customers and patients.
In terms of Creative, we want to look at challenges and issues that people are having in a fresh way with new perspectives and see if there is an out-of-the-box way to approach them. Out-of-the-box does not have to mean wacky or off the wall, but it does have to innovate. You can create something new and better sometimes just by looking at an issue a little differently. Creative is also a nice nod to our heritage as we are known for coming at technology from a different perspective. Our founders were not from the hearing industry. Today, we can also be creative with marketing programs, customer care, tech support, and sales programs in order to bring forth new solutions.
Regarding Dedicated, we are dedicated to our customers from a support standpoint and dedicated to providing products that continue to deliver a natural sound and make speech clear. We believe in the importance of customer care and we are dedicated to excellence in this area. It is important to make people happy, make sure someone is always there to answer the phone, and make sure we know the answers to questions and can solve problems. Being a very active participant in what goes on with our customers and their patients is a big deal to us.
In terms of dedication, it's also interesting to note that we still have the original Sonic "employee number one" within the organization.
SMAKA: Who is that?
LANDON: Keith Davis, previously the Director of Electrical Engineering. Keith has been with us since day one and has been integral to the Sonic history of great products. He worked with Doug Chabries out of Brigham Young University on our original technology, and after all these years he is still very passionate about Sonic.
SMAKA: That's great!
LANDON: Yes, there are a lot of dedicated people like Keith at Sonic. It's been about a year since the acquisition, and people are excited with the changes. This brings us to our third core value, Energetic. We feel like we are still the youngsters on the block in the industry, and we bring enthusiasm and energy, not just to our customers, but to the marketplace, too. The people at Sonic are fun. We are friendly, and approachable. That tonality was important for us to preserve as it's integral to who we are, and it differentiates us from other companies. We also embrace the fact that even though we are global, we're an American company and that's part of our DNA. Our world headquarters are here in Somerset, New Jersey, and our U.S. production is here in Eagan, Minnesota.
SMAKA: It sounds to me, by your explanation, that those customers who have known Sonic from the beginning won't find anything shocking in the rebranding. It is more about really clarifying the essence of what Sonic is all about.
LANDON: Exactly. We do not want to lose our story or foundation with any of the rebranding. Sonic has come from out-of-industry experience, and we want to apply out-of-industry thinking to the way that we approach things. When you are acquired by a large holding company within the industry, it is difficult to take a maverick approach, but it is important to be able to establish and define yourself. Demant understands that, and that has enabled us to fit nicely within the larger organization.
One of my favorite things that we did during the rebranding was to clarify what we call our themes, or our 4S Foundation, which will be our focus next year. When you look at Sonic products, past, present and future, you'll see that we focus on Sound that's natural, Speech understanding in noise, Simplicity in everything we do, and Style that stands out. It is a great way to easily remind people what Sonic stands for. Furthermore, if a customer is not familiar with Sonic, it is a brief, to-the-point introduction about what they can expect from us.
SMAKA: Have the visuals and the logo changed as a result of the rebranding?
LANDON: Yes, we did change the logo and have some new visuals we are very excited about. We wanted to get the "everyday sounds better" concept in front of people, so we have changed our logo slightly. We experimented with many different designs from subtle to extreme, but we wanted people to still recognize us and know we are still here, but that we are growing. So we took the "Innovations" part of the previous logo and replaced that with "everyday sounds better."
SMAKA: Excellent. How does this rebranding effort affect professionals' day-to-day business with Sonic?
LANDON: First, it shows a continued focus on customer care and tech support. That is something Sonic does very well. We have bolstered our training effort to make sure anyone who interacts with the customer has had exposure on every aspect of the company. We want to make sure when we interact with customers that these questions are answered: "Do you have everything you need? What more can we do? Can we get you training? Can we get you supplies? Is there anything else that we can do for you?"
Additionally, as of November 1st, our Minnesota facility is moving into a new building. We will have over 20,000 square feet, and we are designing it top to bottom with efficiency experts from William Demant. When you are in a space for ten years, you work with what you have, but it is certainly nowhere near as efficient as it could be when you design a new space from the ground up. Another big change is that the Sonic world headquarters is moving into a new building in Somerset, New Jersey, in early 2012. Both of these moves will allow for expansion within the company.
Demant is investing in the growth of Sonic. There is no better indicator that Sonic is positioned to be a strong competitor moving forward than by the support that they have shown the brand.
A new key visual for Sonic corporate communications.
In addition, we have some very exciting product news. We are releasing a new product this fall, the Flip miniRIC, running on a new Demant platform, but it is built on Sonic theory, algorithms and design. It truly embodies the 4S Foundation, offering Sound that's natural, Speech understanding in noise, Simplicity in everything we do, and Style that stands out. You'll see the results of our rebranding that we discussed today in the product campaign and materials as well.
SMAKA: Kathy, I look forward to seeing the results of your rebranding and thanks for your time in giving us this overview. This is an exciting new chapter for Sonic, and I'd love to talk again soon to hear more about the Flip in detail.
LANDON: Thanks Carolyn.
For more information, about Sonic please visit http://us.sonici.com/ or the Sonic web channel on AudiologyOnline.