Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

The Music of Marketing

PhD graduate harmonizes professional experience with academic career.

What's a marketing professional to do upon reaching a peak in one's career? Vijaykumar Krishnan Palghat (“PK”) once faced just such a dilemma. He had amassed a wealth of experience, including prestigious positions as Business Head for the Times of India, Vice President and Marketing Head of planetworkz NIIT Ltd., General Manager of Marketing for Usha Martin Telekim Ltd. and Account Director for J.Walter Thompson in India.

Also a professional-level violinist with an interest in Indian classical Carnatic music, PK had received the Klyengar best violinist award from the Madras Music Academy and had been a graded artiste on All India Radio and National Television.

And when he was ready to take his career—and his love of music—to the next level, PK chose the University of Cincinnati's PhD program in business with a concentration in marketing.

While pursuing his degree at the College of Business, PK developed and honed his academic abilities through a number of research projects, presentations and publications, as well as by teaching marketing metrics and retail decision making. He received the “Best Overall Conference Paper Award” in 2007 at the Summer American Marketing Association Educator's Conference. He also won the College of Business Graduate Student Research Award, a fitting tribute to his research excellence. PK's findings have been published in many professional journals, ranging from the Proceedings of the Society for Consumer Psychology Winter 2009 Conference to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

For his dissertation, “Hearing, Remembering, and Branding: Guidelines for Creating Sonic Logos,” PK integrates his experiences as a marketer and a musician. He coins the term “sogos” (short for “sonic logos”) to refer to “the auditory analog of visual logos.” He explains, “Sound, in its many forms, plays a central role in branding. Yet, despite its pervasive use in practice, sonic branding has not been studied to the extent that visual branding has.” In his dissertation, PK sought to “contribute to branding theory and practice, including the development of guidelines for the creation or selection of sogos.”

The study of sound as it relates to marketing was a fitting topic for PK to research while at UC. Dr. James Kellaris, PhD, the James S. Womack / Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Marketing  and the chair of PK's dissertation committee, has conducted extensive research in the field of music and marketing and is a leading contributor to theories regarding earworms—those catchy jingles you just can't get out of your mind.

Dr. Kellaris comments on PK's dissertation, “This research work represents the current state-of-the-art in the emerging field of sonic branding—the strategic use of sound to create an authentic auditory identity for a brand. Sound plays an important role in creating brands.  It can identify a brand, distinguish it from competing brands, support a brand image, and convey brand attributes non-verbally.” Given the important role that sound can play in branding, Kellaris explains that PK's findings regarding three specific auditory characteristics of sogos—number of tones, contour and “chunkability”—“can be applied to the creation of better branding through sound.”

PK received his PhD in 2009 and is off to further his academic career at Northern Illinois University as an assistant professor of marketing. His teaching interests include brand/product management, marketing strategy and consumer behavior. He has become a recognized leader in the field of sonic branding, recently discussing the topic in an interview with Smart Business Chicago.