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If InterContinental were a sound … what would it be?

Michael Spencer (Managing Director of Sound Strategies Ltd, London, UK)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 6 July 2010




Corporate communications and music seem unlikely bedfellows. Increasingly, businesses are turning to non‐traditional methods to create competitive advantage. This case study demonstrates how such alliances can reveal new opportunities for creating sustainable differentiation in the marketplace.


This paper examines the strategy and processes behind a specific positioning initiative undertaken by one of the global leaders in the hospitality industry. It charts its genesis, and the evolution from a simple concept into a major international initiative.


Although interventions may start from a simple conceptual basis, in this instance the more effective use of music in hotels, this study shows how the development of a systematic, arts‐based training initiative, making direct connection with the business imperatives of a client, can prompt more exacting inquiry into established industry practice and act as a catalyst for organisational change. It demonstrates the importance of developing a shared understanding between the protagonists of the culture within which the process takes place, and how necessary it is to establish a mutually acknowledged “lingua franca” for the purposes of conceptual exchange. In this way, additional and unexpected benefits can emerge.


Music is acknowledged universally as having profound personal impact, but that this is generally a highly subjective experience. As this paper shows, in the light of new research into the wider context of music in society, it also presents opportunities as a catalyst for the pursuit of deeper levels of learning with value to be accrued at both corporate and personal level.



Spencer, M. (2010), "If InterContinental were a sound … what would it be?", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 39-46.



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