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Sonic Conversations #3 - Smita Murarka

In a series of in-depth conversations with marketing, branding and design thought leaders across the globe we will discuss the evolving role of music and sound and get their long-term view on sonic branding. Here Smita Murarka, CMO of Duroflex talks about the unique project "Sounds of Sleep" and shares her overall view on music in marketing.


Smita is a multi-award-winning marketing and communications leader with over 19 years of experience with brands like Duroflex, MAS holdings, Lifestyle International, Landmark Group, etc. Currently, she is leading a team of diversified marketers as CMO at Duroflex, in its mission to transform the way India sleeps.



“I really believe that you can't build great brands over the long term by just doing tactical initiatives. Great brands are created with both tactical and purpose-driven messaging” – Smita Murarka


 

Unmute: Could you tell us about your current role?


Smita: I'm the CMO at Duroflex, India's leading sleep solution company, and our primary product is mattresses. It was very challenging to bring the connotation of sleep connected to health into the conversation because mattresses were sold as a commodity in India before the pandemic and the Indian consumers are hagglers. So we started a lot of discussion about sleep right from the beginning of 2020, which ended up transforming the business after the pandemic. Today we call ourselves the Sleep Solution Company because we've gone beyond mattresses.


Unmute: How does music fit into your business?


Smita: Music calms and soothes people, especially when you’re trying to sleep. We wanted to target young parents, especially young first- or second-time mothers who are probably more stressed than the average person, and it was important for us to do something that really connected with that demographic.


So on World Sleep Day last year, which was at the end of the first wave of the pandemic, we launched our project Sounds of Sleep targeted at young parents in collaboration with Sony Music and YouTube. The project recreates lullabies that have been local and regional for generations.


The parents would have heard them from their mothers or grandmothers, and they instantly connected with them. We recreated them with some of the top singers in the country and hired Indian actor Kalki Coechlin to be the face and voice of the project. She was talking a lot about parenthood at that point, as she had just become a mother, and she posted a lot of lullabies on her social media.


This project became an organic hit. Honestly, we did not expect that it would go viral so fast, but it did because we made it out of love for the idea, and it just kept getting bigger. So that's how we started it. This year's World Sleep Day we did season two, where we had original compositions made.


Also, people love when we play the songs in our experience stores. People actually start humming the melodies when they walk in, which is very encouraging! All of us have different preferences in music, but I don't think there'll be anybody who doesn't get attracted to music at all. Music is a language that binds everyone together, not only regionally and nationally, but also internationally.


In India, music is highly regional, and there are many spoken languages, but the sound of the music still connects everyone. So, for example, songs in Malayalam, spoken in Kerala in the southern part of India, got very popular even with the Hindi audience. So music helps you connect in a lot of ways – and the science about its calming abilities supports our purpose of helping people sleep better.


Unmute: That sounds like a fantastic project! Are you utilizing it in your more direct marketing and branding activities?

Smita: Our marketing initiatives focus on making sure that the consumer buys better products and upgrades to our brand. Combining products and music to help consumers and create IPs at scale like we did with Sounds of Sleep is an effective marketing strategy.


We genuinely believe in our purpose, because great brands are created with both tactical and purpose-driven messaging. So that's what we are doing here. I really believe that you can't build great brands over the long term by just doing tactical initiatives. Sounds of Sleep is a purpose-driven initiative, and launching it on World Sleep Day is a great message of doing something different but still meaningful and something that helps consumers understand that we are not here just to sell.


Unmute: Yes, it's all about building trust. So how is the Duroflex brand present in the experience of Sound of Sleep?


Smita: Well, the property itself is called Duroflex Sounds of Sleep. It is a branded property and an IP, and we own it, but at the same time, we are partnering with other companies like Sony Music and YouTube. Sound of Sleep plays at all points where consumers interact with our brand, i.e., YouTube and social media. So it is a brand-first property in that sense..


Unmute: So in terms of the music you use on your video content, what are your thoughts behind your choices, and what is the process when you're creating this content?


Smita: In India right now, acquiring music rights has become very expensive. Also, creating something new is equally expensive. We weigh our options, and many decisions are made on the first creative call. Music plays a crucial role in this because music sets the mood for the narrative. So for us, music is key, and we do weigh our options


Unmute: Are you looking at each project separately or going for a more holistic approach in terms of the sound and music you use?


Smita: We have established a brand world that contains all strategic tools and assets, like the words we choose, the way we look, and even in music there's a zone we want to be in. So marketing pieces can look different but still feel like the brand because they live within the same world. Eventually, we want to have music or a sonic logo that is completely owned by us!


Unmute: Are there other touchpoints where you use sound and music? Do you have any digital services, are you using music in your customer service or elsewhere in your marketing activities?


Smita: Yes, so now we play our Sounds of Sleep music in the office, and the Consumer Experience team plays it at our stores. Of course, it's on YouTube, our social media, and we use it whenever the occasion comes. It’s something of our own, and we will continue to use it as much as possible because it's pretty timeless, as lullabies are. It's an everlasting thing we've created, and we use it at all touchpoints as much as possible.


Unmute: So it seems that you consider this project as part of your sonic brand at this point?


Smita: Yeah. The music supports our purpose. Our main business is to make great products and do knowledge-sharing initiatives as much as we can in our capacity. We feel music should have a clear purpose to it. There should be a clear alignment to what you're doing, and it has to make sense. We are quite proud that we've built the two seasons of Sounds of Sleep. It's something we can bring back every World Sleep Day to get a lot more people to understand music as a sleep aid and also to get more attention to our brand.