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THE SOUND
PRESENTS
STRATEGIES
FOR
DISUNITY
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
UNDERSTANDING DISUNITY
2
The	political	shocks	of	2016	caught	many	of	us	off	guard	
and	revealed	some	uncomfortable	truths	that	until	recently	
most	were	happy	to	ignore.		
They	revealed	how	disconnected	and	polarized	people	are,	and	
how	radically	different	they	see	the	future	of	their	communities	
and	countries.	Most	critically,	they	revealed	how	powerful	a	
force	disunity	has	become.	
If	the	market	of	a	year	ago	was	at	its	most	competitive	and	
crowded,	it’s	now	also	become	fractured	along	some	very	wide	
emotional	and	political	fault	lines.	
At	The	Sound,	going	beyond	the	obvious,	honing	in	on	the	
fringes	and	exploring	difAicult	terrain	is	at	the	heart	of	our	
philosophy.		
For	the	past	year	we	have	been	exploring	these	fault	lines	to	
gain	a	deeper	understanding	of	how	disunity	is	affecting	
how	people	communicate	with	each	other	and	how	they	see	
the	world	around	them.
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 3
No Shared Narrative
Hidden Feelings
Universal Protest
Trust Deficit
People	no	longer	share	a	common	story	and	the	
stories	they	once	shared	are	now	being	told	in	
different	ways.	This	makes	it	harder	to	communicate	
to	entire	demographics	at	once,	but	also	provides	an	
opportunity	to	deBine	the	new	universal.
Fear	of	social	backlash	and	the	politicization	of	
everything	has	led	many	to	keep	their	opinions	
private;	from	friends,	family,	and	colleagues,	and	
deAinitely	from	pollsters,	data-scrapers	and	focus	
groups.	This	has	resulted	in	a	mass	of	opinion	
going	unnoticed	and	unrecorded.
Trust	in	government,	media,	NGOs	and	business	
has	reached	an	all-time	low	and	continues	to	
decline.	Because	of	this,	brands	are	reaching	a	trust	
tipping	point	where	one	bad	move	can	quickly	
alienate	large	segments	of	their	audience.	
Protest	is	no	longer	left	or	right,	new	or	
old,	urban	or	rural	–	it’s	everywhere.		It	has	
become	a	daily	activity	that	people	express	
through	conversation,	on	social	media	and	
wherever	they	spend	their	money.	
Hyper-Tribalism
Cultural	anxiety	is	leading	people	to	
abandon	civic	tradition	and	realign	around	
new	ideals.	The	emerging	partisanship	is	
especially	pronounced	among	young	
people.
Disunity	applies	a	Ailter	of	conAlict	to	how	we	communicate,	
which	means	even	the	most	innocent	and	simple	messages	can	
be	interpreted	in	radically	different	ways	depending	on	who	
you’re	talking	to.	
DISUNITED TRENDS
The	trends	and	phenomenon	that	have	emerged	from	this	
state	of	disunity	are	not	only	changing	how	we	see	each	
other,	but	are	having	immediate	effects	on	how	people	
relate	to	brands.
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 4
NAVIGATING DISUNITY
People	have	become	angrier,	less	trusting	and	more	eager	to	
pick	a	Aight.	They’ve	also	grown	more	passionate	in	their	beliefs,	
and	more	willing	to	stand	up	for	them.	

We	believe	that	the	default	tone	of	our	lives	has	changed,	and	
brands	that	ignore	this	tone	shift	will	lose	ground,	while	those	
that	embrace	it	will	thrive.		
There	isn’t	any	proven	formula	for	how	to	navigate	this	new	
landscape,	and	understanding	this	shift	can	be	overwhelming,	
daunting	and	chaotic.	
But	at	The	Sound	we	like	chaos,	and	we’ve	been	embracing	
it	for	a	while	now.	
Here	are	6	strategies	that	we’ve	been	working	on	to	help	you	get	
an	idea	of	where	we’re	coming	from.
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 5
1 / Prepare FOR BRAND ANARCHY
2/ Smash YOUR BUBBLE
3/ Rediscover YOUR AUDIENCE
4/ Restate YOUR PURPOSE
5/ Find A COMMON ENEMY
6/ Expand THE CONVERSATION
STRATEGIES FOR DISUNITY
1/ Prepare FOR BRAND ANARCHY
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
Having a campaign or product become a meme is the holy grail of
earned media, but the democratization of content breeds chaos,
both good and bad – the same energy that can propel your brand
to virality can also condemn it to villainy.
In a year where millions of casual bystanders engaged in meme
warfare against multinational brands, Wendy’s was able to pull
off a massive social media coup.
The #Nuggsforcarter phenomenon saw a hungry 16-year-old
hijack Wendy’s Twitter presence with his desperate appeal for
free chicken nuggets – his original plea going on to become the
most shared tweet of all time.
In the end, Carter got his nuggs, and because Wendy’s
embraced the anarchic nature of the event, they got their free
publicity – over $7 million dollars worth.
Viral events can amplify pre-existing feelings – understanding how
your brand might already be in conflict with people’s values will
help assess the context shaping their reactions and better prepare
you for a crisis – or an opportunity.
Use in-depth consumer research to uncover the unexpected
ways in which people relate to your brand and its category
long before an incident triggers a response.
Example
WENDY’S
6
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 7
2/ Smash YOUR BUBBLE
Disunity is the problem and empathy is the solution, but empathy
isn’t born from dispassionate observation – it comes from listening,
action and shared experience.
Go beyond secondary research and backroom monitoring and meet
your core audience face to face by taking part in consumer connects.
Working to break down the barrier between front and back rooms
will help you better understand your audience’s POV and life story.
Get out of your safe space and embrace a culture of fearless
bravery when it comes to interacting with your audience.
More intimacy will lead to more insight.
Pantene admitted they had a problem: they’d been ignoring
people. Specifically, women of color. This had been leading
them towards a biased understanding of what their product
was and who it was for.
With their “Strong is Beautiful” campaign and newly launched
“Gold Series” product line, they sought to bring about a more
inclusive approach to how they do business.
By acknowledging their bias and listening to new voices, they
were able to celebrate all hair and build a bigger and stronger
space for their brand.
Example
PANTENE
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 8
3/ Rediscover YOUR AUDIENCE
If your audience was apolitical before, odds are that their politics
have shifted – and these shifts may have impacted how they view
your brand. You can challenge your in-house bias by running a
hypothesis session on who your audience is and what they think of
you.
Regardless of whether or not your brand is in any way political,
people are looking to sort out what side you fall on. Learn about your
brand’s political nuances by conducting ethnographic work that
touches on how it is viewed within the broader political matrix.
Don’t shy away from integrating political understanding into
your process - knowing your audience’s politics is critical to
knowing how they will interpret your message.
With their new campaign, Worlds Apart: An Experiment,
strangers with radically different views took part in a “social
experiment” to see if they could find common ground.
The campaign directly confronted disunity through the voices
of these individuals, forcing them to work together to solve a
shared problem.
By being willing to take on the reality of individual politics,
Heineken positioned itself as a timely unifier.
Example
HEINEKEN
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 9
4/ Restate YOUR PURPOSE
A clear, consistent and truthful purpose is the single most effective
tool your brand can use to stand out against the noise of disunity.
But it isn’t merely copy, tag lines or words at the start of an anthem
campaign.
A purpose can’t be faked or be overly engineered – it needs to come
from somewhere real. To find that realness, use a purpose workshop
to discover what kinds of reasons for being live within your brand’s
DNA.
Avoid ideas that are vague or convoluted and embrace the
simple and actionable. A purpose should be easily grasped
and serve as inspiration throughout the entirety of your
brand and internal culture.
Starbucks is a liberal brand, with liberal customers
and liberal employees.
By promising to support refugees, Starbucks not
only stuck to their ideals, but it escalated them in
the face of credible boycott threats.
They were willing to alienate potential customers
because they believed in what they were doing and
knew their audience would back them.
Example
STARBUCKS
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 10WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COMWWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
5/ Find A COMMON ENEMY
A safe approach is the surest path to indifference, while taking a
political stance can lead to alienation. Focus instead on how your
purpose aligns with your audience’s and help them fight back
against a common enemy.
Enemies are not other brands, but cultural currents or attitudes that
create a tension people are living with and against. Identify your
enemies by doing a cultural scan that looks at the currents that are
most deeply impacting the lives of your audience.
Understanding who your enemies are will allow your brand
and audience work together in a tangibly meaningful way.
Everyone hates a scam artist. Banks especially.
With this in mind, Barclays’ “Digital Safety” campaign goes
to war with fraudsters on behalf of its customers.
Not just a series of ads, the campaign includes a major drive
to help equip Barclays’ customers with the tools to fight
back against fraud.
By targeting a shared enemy, Barclays was able to connect
on a deeper level with their audience, a level on which they
work together to solve a common problem.
Example
BARCLAYS
Conversation marketing is crucial in attracting the elusive attention
of Millennials and Gen Edge. But most brands mute their potential
from day one of the research stage.
Don’t just talk to advocates, embrace neutrals and skeptics as well
– engaging with those who have little or negative interest in your
brand will help you better understand how your messaging will
fare in the real world.
Understanding what the opposition thinks and how
influential their arguments can be is critical. Brands that
listen to a diversity of voices, even their haters, will have a
better chance of defining the new universal.
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 11WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COMWWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
6/ Expand THE CONVERSATION
Johnnie Walker’s latest campaign, “Keep Walking America” sees
the eponymous Scottish whiskey take a documentary-style trip
from sea to shining sea.
But it’s not the brand’s typical voices that are met along that
journey: it’s ranchers, athletes, burnt-out nurses, musicians,
cowboys, soldiers, and a lot of everyday Americans.
Set to the lyrics of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, in
both English and Spanish, the campaign expands the dialogue
surrounding Johnnie Walker and repositions it at the new heart of
a new type of Americana.
Example
JOHNNIE WALKER
WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 12
V A N C O U V E R | N E W Y O R K | L O N D O N | T O R O N T O | C H I C A G O | M U M B A I
W W W . T H E S O U N D H Q . C O M

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Strategies for Disunity

  • 2. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM UNDERSTANDING DISUNITY 2 The political shocks of 2016 caught many of us off guard and revealed some uncomfortable truths that until recently most were happy to ignore. They revealed how disconnected and polarized people are, and how radically different they see the future of their communities and countries. Most critically, they revealed how powerful a force disunity has become. If the market of a year ago was at its most competitive and crowded, it’s now also become fractured along some very wide emotional and political fault lines. At The Sound, going beyond the obvious, honing in on the fringes and exploring difAicult terrain is at the heart of our philosophy. For the past year we have been exploring these fault lines to gain a deeper understanding of how disunity is affecting how people communicate with each other and how they see the world around them.
  • 3. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 3 No Shared Narrative Hidden Feelings Universal Protest Trust Deficit People no longer share a common story and the stories they once shared are now being told in different ways. This makes it harder to communicate to entire demographics at once, but also provides an opportunity to deBine the new universal. Fear of social backlash and the politicization of everything has led many to keep their opinions private; from friends, family, and colleagues, and deAinitely from pollsters, data-scrapers and focus groups. This has resulted in a mass of opinion going unnoticed and unrecorded. Trust in government, media, NGOs and business has reached an all-time low and continues to decline. Because of this, brands are reaching a trust tipping point where one bad move can quickly alienate large segments of their audience. Protest is no longer left or right, new or old, urban or rural – it’s everywhere. It has become a daily activity that people express through conversation, on social media and wherever they spend their money. Hyper-Tribalism Cultural anxiety is leading people to abandon civic tradition and realign around new ideals. The emerging partisanship is especially pronounced among young people. Disunity applies a Ailter of conAlict to how we communicate, which means even the most innocent and simple messages can be interpreted in radically different ways depending on who you’re talking to. DISUNITED TRENDS The trends and phenomenon that have emerged from this state of disunity are not only changing how we see each other, but are having immediate effects on how people relate to brands.
  • 5. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 5 1 / Prepare FOR BRAND ANARCHY 2/ Smash YOUR BUBBLE 3/ Rediscover YOUR AUDIENCE 4/ Restate YOUR PURPOSE 5/ Find A COMMON ENEMY 6/ Expand THE CONVERSATION STRATEGIES FOR DISUNITY
  • 6. 1/ Prepare FOR BRAND ANARCHY WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM Having a campaign or product become a meme is the holy grail of earned media, but the democratization of content breeds chaos, both good and bad – the same energy that can propel your brand to virality can also condemn it to villainy. In a year where millions of casual bystanders engaged in meme warfare against multinational brands, Wendy’s was able to pull off a massive social media coup. The #Nuggsforcarter phenomenon saw a hungry 16-year-old hijack Wendy’s Twitter presence with his desperate appeal for free chicken nuggets – his original plea going on to become the most shared tweet of all time. In the end, Carter got his nuggs, and because Wendy’s embraced the anarchic nature of the event, they got their free publicity – over $7 million dollars worth. Viral events can amplify pre-existing feelings – understanding how your brand might already be in conflict with people’s values will help assess the context shaping their reactions and better prepare you for a crisis – or an opportunity. Use in-depth consumer research to uncover the unexpected ways in which people relate to your brand and its category long before an incident triggers a response. Example WENDY’S 6
  • 7. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 7 2/ Smash YOUR BUBBLE Disunity is the problem and empathy is the solution, but empathy isn’t born from dispassionate observation – it comes from listening, action and shared experience. Go beyond secondary research and backroom monitoring and meet your core audience face to face by taking part in consumer connects. Working to break down the barrier between front and back rooms will help you better understand your audience’s POV and life story. Get out of your safe space and embrace a culture of fearless bravery when it comes to interacting with your audience. More intimacy will lead to more insight. Pantene admitted they had a problem: they’d been ignoring people. Specifically, women of color. This had been leading them towards a biased understanding of what their product was and who it was for. With their “Strong is Beautiful” campaign and newly launched “Gold Series” product line, they sought to bring about a more inclusive approach to how they do business. By acknowledging their bias and listening to new voices, they were able to celebrate all hair and build a bigger and stronger space for their brand. Example PANTENE
  • 8. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 8 3/ Rediscover YOUR AUDIENCE If your audience was apolitical before, odds are that their politics have shifted – and these shifts may have impacted how they view your brand. You can challenge your in-house bias by running a hypothesis session on who your audience is and what they think of you. Regardless of whether or not your brand is in any way political, people are looking to sort out what side you fall on. Learn about your brand’s political nuances by conducting ethnographic work that touches on how it is viewed within the broader political matrix. Don’t shy away from integrating political understanding into your process - knowing your audience’s politics is critical to knowing how they will interpret your message. With their new campaign, Worlds Apart: An Experiment, strangers with radically different views took part in a “social experiment” to see if they could find common ground. The campaign directly confronted disunity through the voices of these individuals, forcing them to work together to solve a shared problem. By being willing to take on the reality of individual politics, Heineken positioned itself as a timely unifier. Example HEINEKEN
  • 9. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 9 4/ Restate YOUR PURPOSE A clear, consistent and truthful purpose is the single most effective tool your brand can use to stand out against the noise of disunity. But it isn’t merely copy, tag lines or words at the start of an anthem campaign. A purpose can’t be faked or be overly engineered – it needs to come from somewhere real. To find that realness, use a purpose workshop to discover what kinds of reasons for being live within your brand’s DNA. Avoid ideas that are vague or convoluted and embrace the simple and actionable. A purpose should be easily grasped and serve as inspiration throughout the entirety of your brand and internal culture. Starbucks is a liberal brand, with liberal customers and liberal employees. By promising to support refugees, Starbucks not only stuck to their ideals, but it escalated them in the face of credible boycott threats. They were willing to alienate potential customers because they believed in what they were doing and knew their audience would back them. Example STARBUCKS
  • 10. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 10WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COMWWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 5/ Find A COMMON ENEMY A safe approach is the surest path to indifference, while taking a political stance can lead to alienation. Focus instead on how your purpose aligns with your audience’s and help them fight back against a common enemy. Enemies are not other brands, but cultural currents or attitudes that create a tension people are living with and against. Identify your enemies by doing a cultural scan that looks at the currents that are most deeply impacting the lives of your audience. Understanding who your enemies are will allow your brand and audience work together in a tangibly meaningful way. Everyone hates a scam artist. Banks especially. With this in mind, Barclays’ “Digital Safety” campaign goes to war with fraudsters on behalf of its customers. Not just a series of ads, the campaign includes a major drive to help equip Barclays’ customers with the tools to fight back against fraud. By targeting a shared enemy, Barclays was able to connect on a deeper level with their audience, a level on which they work together to solve a common problem. Example BARCLAYS
  • 11. Conversation marketing is crucial in attracting the elusive attention of Millennials and Gen Edge. But most brands mute their potential from day one of the research stage. Don’t just talk to advocates, embrace neutrals and skeptics as well – engaging with those who have little or negative interest in your brand will help you better understand how your messaging will fare in the real world. Understanding what the opposition thinks and how influential their arguments can be is critical. Brands that listen to a diversity of voices, even their haters, will have a better chance of defining the new universal. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 11WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COMWWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 6/ Expand THE CONVERSATION Johnnie Walker’s latest campaign, “Keep Walking America” sees the eponymous Scottish whiskey take a documentary-style trip from sea to shining sea. But it’s not the brand’s typical voices that are met along that journey: it’s ranchers, athletes, burnt-out nurses, musicians, cowboys, soldiers, and a lot of everyday Americans. Set to the lyrics of Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, in both English and Spanish, the campaign expands the dialogue surrounding Johnnie Walker and repositions it at the new heart of a new type of Americana. Example JOHNNIE WALKER
  • 12. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 12 V A N C O U V E R | N E W Y O R K | L O N D O N | T O R O N T O | C H I C A G O | M U M B A I W W W . T H E S O U N D H Q . C O M