Want to know who's to blame for all those shop radio stations? Try Bruno Brookes
Tom Peck on the ex-chart show DJ, his music firm – and its fall down the FTSE chart
That Immedia Plc should have lost the Lloyds Pharmacy radio services contract is not the sort of thing that sends shock waves through the stock market these days. But the forlorn words of the firm's chief executive raised one or two eyebrows among market watchers of a certain demographic. "Naturally we are disappointed to stop broadcasting Lloyds Pharmacy Live after nine years," Bruno Brookes said.
Anyone for whom age is something still worth lying about will know the Brookes star once shone brighter in the radio firmament. It is a long time since Bruno (real name Trevor) was the biggest thing on Radio 1. It is a long time even since he quizzed pupils and their headmasters on Children's BBC's Beat the Teacher. And it also wasn't hugely recently that he talked tackle with viewers on Sky Sports' phone-in fishing programme Tight Lines. But Lloyds Pharmacy Live?
"We provide music to 37 million people a week in the UK," Mr Brookes, now 52 and an expert in "experiential marketing strategy" told The Independent.
"Cheese – good for sandwiches, not for brands. Finding music that suits your brand is more important than you think," claims the home page of Immedia Plc, which Mr Brookes founded 12 years ago, and whose clients include HSBC, Topshop and Ikea. As well as music, he also advises retailers on what's called "tonality strategy".
"We try and explain what voice will best communicate with a brand's customer. What age, what gender, what socioeconomic demographic?" he said, a topic on which he can fairly claim expertise. Mr Brookes is not the only voice of Radio 1 who has been deemed too long in the tooth for the station's 15- to 29-year-old target demographic.
So is there more than meets the ear to in-store music? "Well, that's a very complicated process," Mr Brookes explained. "Top brands spend many, many millions of pounds trying to create an image. First you have to understand who a brand is and how they want people to connect with them. Music is one of those sensory experiences that people connect to.
"Then there's other factors to consider like the time of day, the nature of the environment, mood states." This seems a salient point. The same people might queue up on a weekday lunchtime in HSBC as in Abercrombie & Fitch on a Saturday, but they are not in the same state of mind.
It is seven years since Immedia launched HSBC Live, an in-branch radio station designed to keep customers entertained, and informed, while they wait, and it has been a significant success. "Retail audiences are huge," Mr Brookes says. "And you can make sure you talk to your customers about what matters, not what doesn't matter." But the playing field is changing.
"Retailers' competitors now are online. Online is all about convenience and price. Stores have to be much more experiential. Communication is more important than ever before, be it audio, digital, visual. You need new technology in stores to get new information to people. Your customers are there for a reason. They have expectations and perceptions. These must be met with the right experience. Music is just part of that."
Among his other offerings are LED digital signage, and "mobile marketing" – delivering loyalty promotions and incentives to customers' mobiles.
"In 10 years' time, a trip to the shops will be very different," he maintains. "There'll be much more digital interactivity. We're seeing it already with iPads, touchscreens, and so on. There will be a much closer, more interactive relationship between retail brands and their customers."
The loss of Lloyds Pharmacy Live, for what Mr Brookes said was for "reasons unconnected with Immedia", has left his company's share price at a three-year low of 5.5p, but Mr Brookes remains optimistic, promising Immedia "will announce new business shortly".
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