5 Kodály Tenants: On Foundational Branding

The Idea

The good news: It’s been a little over a week since graduation. The bad news: I’m knee-deep in summer schooling, looking for a job, and gearing up for an MBA in Organizational Leadership. While living under the weight of this important time in my life, I’ve tried to alleviate stress in many different ways, from general relaxation techniques to writing free verse in my spare time.

After some careful deliberating, I realized I could put my relaxation time to good use, both by taking it easy on my sanity and learning critical thinking skills in my fields of interest (communication and branding being the primary targets.) The result: This blog post.

My most time-tested way to relax is listening to powerful, meaningful music. I don’t mean the latest top 20 inspirational pop song or some traditional song to get pumped up. I’m talking about the high art of classical composition. As you can imagine, the song that has helped calm me these past few weeks is also the true muse behind this post, and goes something like this:

This song, composed in the early 20th century by famed Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, and educator Zoltan Kodály, retells the somber moments before a young soldier lays down to bed for the night. The young man pleads with God, asking for safety and warmth throughout the night, saying he has “grown tired of wandering/ of hiding/ of living in a foreign land.” Sobering and powerful indeed.

The Method

Zoltan Kodály not only composed choral music, but was also renowned for his ability to blend all the traditional forms of composition in a bold new way, building beautiful cathedral-filling melodies often based on his collections of ancient folk tunes. This ability to adapt and be creative along with his extensive work in the musical education of youth are what make up the framework for this post.

The Great Educator

Kodály’s paramount work on music education and pedagogy has been erroneously referred to as the “Kodály Method” for almost a century now. While it is undisputed that his work makes up the basis for what we now consider modern music education internationally, Kodály never actually developed a system for transmitting his tenants to youngsters: he merely laid out the goals for education and pedagogy.

It is upon these 5 clearly established goals and guidelines that we can graft the principles of company branding and communication initiatives in the ever growing and electric climate of social media and the Internet.

The Application- Better Branding

Kodály’s writings lay out these ideas for the appropriate use of music education in the life of a child,  here’s how I think they can be adapted to serve when building a brand for your client (or yourself):

1. Music is a prime necessity of life

When we graft the words “communication” or “branding” into the place of “music,” we arrive at the primary tenant of proper marketing and the general health of any organization. Without communication and identity, an organization simply would not survive in today’s inter-connected, ever shrinking, ever adapting world.

These things are by definition prime necessities of the life of any client you may deal with, and when building a brand it is crucial to help them understand how important the work you’re doing is. Analysis, results, and growth all serve as wonderful tools to help you make this point.

2. Only music of the highest quality is good enough [for children.]

The phrasing on this one may seem slightly awkward at first, but read it again and you’ll understand the true caliber of this tenant. As with anything worth doing in life, all work you produce and all efforts you put forth when developing a brand for yourself or your client should be done to the highest quality. It is a wonderful thing to hold yourself to only the highest standards, and never accept anything less, your clients deserve it of you.

On a more tangible level, consider how effective the quality of different media will actually be to the branding of your client. We all know there is a HUGE difference in quality between setting up a Twitter account for your organization and posting a few miss-aimed tweets because “it’s the thing to do” versus establishing a social media presence through Twitter or Facebook as a means of customer service. This should be done not only as yourself but through your employees too: everyone should be a customer service specialist in today’s tech-climate! (That’s a nod to social media strategist Jay Baer. If you get the chance, check out his book “The Now Revolution”)

And don’t forget our good old friends, the traditional media. Consider quality of publication when aiming pitches.

3. Music education must begin nine months before [the birth of the child.]

Again, the wording may throw you on this one, but the message is as clear as day: Plan early, plan often. The most effective thing you can do when beginning a branding campaign is take the God-honest time to sit down and think. Plan out what your going to say through your social media by developing a social media calendar. Get what you want to say in lock-step with company and local events your client has planned. This may even help you find effective times to brand around the holidays!

If you’re truly a by-the-minute kind of person, use services like HootSuite to disseminate information on a schedule using timed tweets and Facebook page updates. For traditional media, use the (forgive me here) “prenatal” stage of your branding process to build a targeted, focused media list for your organization. There is nothing more impressive to your client (or anyone you work for) than having everything you do timed, organized, and running smooth, and then providing tangible results.

4. Music instruction must be a part of general education for everyone.

With the generation gap beginning to noticeably widen between Generation X, Generation Y, and retiring baby-boomers, this Kodály tenant is perhaps the most readily applicable. Due to the ever growing, far reaching, invasive nature of the Internet, organizational information is more and more available to the masses.

When 100 year old grandmothers and their 7 year old great-grandchildren both have the same access to free information via their smartphones, it is a clear sign that we live in the age of open communication. It falls on our shoulders as communication professionals to help educate to our client’s work communities how to properly communicate, not just serve as their voice for dissemination of information.

Using Jay Baer’s idea once more, it is ever more pressing that proper communication techniques must be part of the general education of everyone in your organization. In his example, Jay describes the all too possible story of someone wanting immediate customer service, but instead of using the traditional 1-800 hotline, they resort to their social media network and are put into contact with the organization’s lawyer. In this instance, the company lawyer has become something more: an individual voice for their organization and a “face” for their image.

5. The ear, the eye, the hand, and the heart must all be trained together.

This is the only tenant without a direct reference to music, and I think that was intentional. Beyond the implication it has for the realm of musical learning, training all of these sensory-focused parts of the human whole to work in tandem towards a goal should be a goal in all things in life. Interestingly, this goes well with the previous tenant, and both should be used in tandem when developing a brand for your client.

Building on this, we should recognize the need to not only figure out how to effectively brand an organization’s main idea, but how to teach those within the organization how to actually live that image. That may mean we need to build programs and a way of understanding the value of company image for all employee groups. For employers, this means a greater focus on employing only candidates that seem genuinely interested and invested in the idea of your organization. All efforts from within and without of your client’s organization should have communication in their factoring somewhere: in other words, don’t let them get away with anything that wouldn’t hold up to transparency in a time of crisis.

The Takeaway

Thanks to the life-long work of Dr. Kodály we can walk away from this post with two powerful lessons: the effectiveness of vocal and physical solfège (a little musical humor there) and a solid list of tenants to use when accomplishing any major goal in life. As with all good things musical and else, only practice and adherence to these guidelines will make perfect, but I think it is well worth the effort (or at least the thought.)

Hopefully you can take what I’ve written here and adapt it to whatever needs you may have when developing a brand for you clients. If you have any further insights or experiences leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

“Real art is one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity. -Zoltan Kodály

-Jarred

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