Discovering Your Sonic Brand, and Other News


On the Shelf

That’s your own personal sound, man.

  • I’ve spent thirty painstaking years building my personal brand from the ground up: a signature blend of synthetic microfibers and dried-out pipe tobacco, shot through with the bashfulness of the Coppertone girl. But I forgot the sounds. Whether you’re a corporation, an individual, or just an abstraction, you’ve got to brand yourself aurally to stand out, Jack Hitt writes: “Sonic branding involves stand-alone sounds, like NBC’s three-note signature or United Airlines’ use of the most familiar measures of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ These distilled riffs are meant to build an aural association with a product to create a Pavlovian sense of loyalty and expectation … Fajitas, [Joel] Beckerman writes, were merely a decent-selling dish that went supernova as a middle-class entrée after Chili’s focused its presentation on the loud sizzle of the dish emerging from the kitchen, a sound that figured into all its key advertising. Spend enough time pondering the nuances of sonic branding, and you come to appreciate the pure genius of the letter z in the word Prozac.”
  • Hey, gang, there’s a new restaurant in London called Bronte! They left the umlaut off, but still, you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s something literary about it. No such luck, though. Tanya Gold paid the place a visit, and: “I hoped that Bronte would be filled with Victorian writers licking ink off their fingers and bitching about Mrs. Gaskell being a third-rate hack; but it is not to be … It is named for Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Bronte … So Bronte is named for a man no one calls Bronte. It could have been called Nelson, decorated with eye patches and plastic parrots, like a Padshow hell shack; or it could have been called Gaskell, an angry and flouncy tearoom that wrote bad novels and one marvelous, vicious and dishonest biography called The Life of Charlotte Brontë; or it could have been called—and this is my wish—Brunty: Pens, Sex and Potatoes.” 

  • This new interview with Nell Zink has me wishing she’d write a dictionary: “As we finished lunch, she explained that new terms are just window dressing for old behaviors and neuroses. Being polyamorous means simply ‘he just likes to go to bars.’ Penny’s love interest would rather drink and smoke than risk exposing his small penis; Zink considers ‘asexuality’ to be a backlash against hookup culture. ‘I’m from the generation that enslaved men and made them give you head for half an hour,’ she said, within earshot of a wholesome-looking family. ‘And the current generation is the one that says, “You can fuck me in the ass and I’ll still be a virgin.” ’ ”
  • Svetlana Alexievich explains how she gets people to open up to her (in a journalistic capacity, mind you; this advice is best not applied to your personal life; remember that Alexievich is a skilled, Nobel Prize–winning professional): “When people decline to talk it is because they do not want to relive their nightmare. And a person who comes back from war is in a way very lonely because he feels that he cannot share this experience completely, he cannot tell everything. Here I’m very honestly telling them why I need this. I tell them that the suffering cannot disappear without a trace, we need to understand how and why. And in order for people to open up you need to be an interesting person for them as well; they need to imagine that in the course of the conversation something will happen that will help them, that they will learn something. For example, if somebody is tied up in love and they’re torn by this feeling, they do want to share with somebody, they do want to make sense of it. And especially when you are not there out of curiosity, you are not there to poke in somebody’s wound, but you genuinely want to try to understand, then this is a way for people to gain that understanding.”