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PR Rescue: The Day the Muzak Died
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Terrible instrumentals on a Casio keyboard. Very slow remixes of Top 40 hits. On-hold tunage. Elevator Music. Regardless the terminology, Muzak is more than a company brand.

This is an eponymous term, much like "I'll have a Coke...maybe Orange," "Can I have a Kleenex," or even "Will you make me a Xerox copy of this." Branding to the point where your company takes over the vertical is an incredible task. However, when your brand conveys bad memories, jokes, and stomach issues, you may want to consider a PR move. 

Ontario, Canada-based Mood Media has done just that. Two years ago, the company paid $345 million to buy the 75-year-old Muzak to help bolster "its sensory marketing portfolio." (Also in this vertical, plug-ins and those toys that make fart noises, I guess.) According to this story in the New York Times, Mood Music will eliminate the Muzak brand for good

“It’s the end of an iconic American brand,” said Lorne Abony, Mood Media’s chairman and chief executive. “We have a team of music gurus, visual specialists, sound and scent-tech experts. We develop compelling, consistent experiences that connect our clients with their customers. The new brand signifies the integration of the company.”

One of the company's headlines on its website is "If your business could talk, how would it sound?" Apparently, Abony got tired of people answering that question, "Like crap." This branding/PR move leaves this reporter a little somber, because future generations won't be able to be placed on hold for 45 minutes and appreciate the uber-bland, white-bread tones of Muzak. Another pity in this name change is the history loss of Muzak. While most will never be able to hear a Lady Gaga tune done just so right by the Eugene Schwartz Quintet, did you know President Lyndon B. Johnson owned a Muzak franchise...or Muzak was played during the Apollo 11 mission to keep the astronauts calm? 

And now, no one will ever know that because Mood Music has taken over and dumped Muzak. The name change makes sense, but it's still somewhat confusing. "Sensory marketing"? Really? Why not just redefine your ubiquitous brand? Why not educate a younger generation on the hip parts of Muzak? They think the opinions of old geezers (you know, people in their mid-40s) are obsolete anyway. 

Ah well, I'll go find my 8-track tape of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and jump in an elevator. You know, for old times' sake. 


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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