Living on the West Coast hasn’t worn away Tena Clark’s Southern-tinged accent. Nor has it softened her disposition, which is energetic and projects a “let’s get right to work” attitude.
That attitude and creative energy are reflected in the songwriter and producer’s résumé. The list of musicians who have been produced by Clark or have performed her songs includes Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Holliday, Gladys Knight, CeCe Winans, Dionne Warwick, Patti Austin and Stephanie Mills, among many others.
She’s considered a pioneer in music marketing, and is well-known in the consumer products and retail industries as the founder of DMI Music & Media Solutions. While some brands and retailers rely on cookie-cutter playlists for in-store and event music, Clark leverages decades of experience to affect consumer behavior using music. In fact, Clark says, “music should be at the center of a company’s marketing efforts.”
Her experience showcases a discography that includes feature films and TV, as well as writing McDonald’s “Have You Had Your Break Today” jingle, composing and producing “Heavenly” for Victoria’s Secret and even programming the music for President Obama’s Air Force One.
When Clark founded DMI in 1997, listeners heard new music and discovered new artists mostly from radio. So her objective was to “deliver music in unexpected places where consumers hadn’t heard it before, which falls into the category of connecting them with more new music that they actually want to hear.”
“In the early days, I developed a saying, which still holds true for us today: ‘There is no greater way to create loyalty than through emotion. And there is no greater way to create emotion than through music,’” Clark explained.
With the in-store experience, she describes music as “an integral part to overall brand strategy.”
“There are so many opportunities for retail brands to have an audio footprint, and it’s important that it is a cohesive and connected experience that builds loyalty,” Clark said. “For bricks-and-mortar retail locations, music doesn’t need to take over the space; rather, it should enhance the consumer experience. Another one of our favorite sayings is, ‘No random acts of music.’ Music should resonate with your target audience no matter where they are visiting your brand, be it online, in store or at an event.”
Specifically, the process includes assessing a retail brand to reveal its “sound DNA.” The process is complicated, and requires some soul-searching on the part of the retailer. “When DMI develops a music strategy for clients, we ensure that all sound, like any other brand asset, creates cohesion not confusion,” Clark said. “We create the music strategy that delivers the brand’s sound DNA. We do a three-tier quality check that includes identifying and providing a collective guideline that helps to unify the brand’s delivery of sound across all touch points. This strategy provides the brand with a comprehensive plan for employing music as a brand-marketing platform and a blueprint for making decisive music choices. We are marketers, as well as brand, music and technology experts.”
Clark said the process involves doing an “in-depth brand analysis” while also conducting interviews. The goal is to gain deeper insights into the brand, Clark said, adding that the work includes an analysis of the target audience of the brand as well as regional preferences. For example, shoppers in the Midwest would have different music preferences than consumers in the South, which would result in different music even at the same retailer.
“Identifying and creating a music strategy makes the brand more cohesive,” Clark said. “It’s about having the same personality across channels and delivering a consistent experience across all touch points with your target demographic. Particularly for the in-store experience, it’s about building trust and loyalty through a new channel.”