Music is good medicine:

Kaiser Pemanente’s audio branding initiative

Brand Timbre helps America’s largest health care provider harness the evocative, inspirational power of music to amplify its total-health message and inspire members to thrive.

A Call to Thrive

Soon after launching its award-winning branding campaign, Thrive, Kaiser Permanente’s Brand Strategy team recognized that music had great potential as an emotionally engaging complement to their total-health message. But they didn’t know how to put music to work in a strategic, systematic way within an organization of over 200,000 employees. What should the Kaiser Permanente (KP) brand sound like? And how can music or sound be used to help tell the KP story, project its identity, and enhance the member experience?

To answer these questions and craft a comprehensive audio-branding strategy, KP turned to Brand Timbre.

“We all understand on an intuitive level that music is good for us. It consoles us when we’re down, it lifts us up, it energizes and revitalizes us. And that’s exactly what we want to do here at Kaiser Permanente—inspire our members to take charge of their health and make their lives better.”
– Deborah Cantu, former Senior VP, Brand Marketing

Assessing KP’s Audio Ecosystem

Brand Timbre began with an audit of KP’s “audio ecosystem” — all of the member touch points that involve (or could involve) sound as a valuable part of the experience. From on-hold music and the messages that play in reception areas, to live performances, the “soundtracks” for online videos, and the music and voice-over talent used in broadcast advertising, Brand Timbre analyzed each touch point to determine how sound and music should be used to achieve KP’s branding and member-experience goals.

What does “total health” sound like?

KP’s audio identity describes how key brand concepts are best expressed or evoked though music and sound. Finding consensus on this topic is challenging at best; it’s difficult to see beyond one’s personal tastes, and without a common frame of reference, even talking about sound or music can prove frustrating.

But Brand Timbre’s proprietary audio-identity process minimizes subjectivity so that consensus about what is on or off-brand is much easier to achieve. Put simply, we break the brand identity down to its essential “building blocks.” Then, we map out the desired emotional takeaway of each of these core elements. From there, Brand Timbre draws on its expertise to articulate the various musical modes and tonal “colors” that will elicit the desired emotional responses.

This process culminated in the Kaiser Permanente Audio-Identity Profile: a “prescription” for expressing KP’s brand identity consistently through sound and music, along with an objective framework for evaluating audio-branding assets and tactics to ensure that all sounds work in concert to present a coherent and distinctive brand voice.

What does “total health” sound like?

KP’s audio identity describes how key brand concepts are best expressed or evoked though music and sound. Finding consensus on this topic is challenging at best; it’s difficult to see beyond one’s personal tastes, and without a common frame of reference, even talking about sound or music can prove frustrating.

But Brand Timbre’s proprietary audio-identity process minimizes subjectivity so that consensus about what is on or off-brand is much easier to achieve. Put simply, we break the brand identity down to its essential “building blocks.” Then, we map out the desired emotional takeaway of each of these core elements. From there, Brand Timbre draws on its expertise to articulate the various musical modes and tonal “colors” that will elicit the desired emotional responses.

This process culminated in the Kaiser Permanente Audio-Identity Profile: a “prescription” for expressing KP’s brand identity consistently through sound and music, along with an objective framework for evaluating audio-branding assets and tactics to ensure that all sounds work in concert to present a coherent and distinctive brand voice.

Putting Music to Work

Over the past eleven years, Brand Timbre has worked with KP to develop and roll out a wide range of successful audio-branding tactics, which may be organized into two basic categories: member-engagement and music-wellness tools.

Member-engagement tools include everything from MusicWell, KP’s online brand-music library, to branded listening stations and music-download cards for distribution at health fairs and KP-sponsored events. These and other tactics have been very successful in differentiating KP from its competitors, reinforcing its position as an innovation leader, and helping audiences understand KP’s holistic approach to good health.

Music-wellness tools harness the power of music to help KP members lead healthier lives. From getting a better night’s sleep and reducing stress, to starting an exercise routine or a nightly living-room dance party, music is a highly effective, low-cost way to inspire and facilitate all-round well being. Brand Timbre developed HealthTunes to enable KP to extend the health benefits of music to its members. From streaming playlists to downloadable “albums” and mobile apps, HealthTunes delivers the revitalizing power of music straight to members’ ears.

Case Study

Download the KP case study.