The Sound of Kathmandu

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The Sound of Kathmandu

    What do you get when you mix a unique bird call, catchy melodies from wooden instruments and the sound of people exploring the outdoors?

    For outdoor brand Kathmandu, we at MassiveMusic developed an iconic, memorable and distinctive sonic identity as part of its long-term strategy. The aim? To drive its audio DNA across all relevant touchpoints while delivering an emotional boost to consumers.

    The Challenge

    The main challenge was making sure the brand could sonically come to life and resonate with contemporary audiences. 

    We wanted to create a sound of the outdoors that sounded natural, while enhancing brand recall at the same time.

    All in all, the Sound of Kathmandu needed to:

    • Embody its brand values: joyful, spontaneous, carefree
    • Be resonant with contemporary music culture and appeal to outdoor urban millennials
    • Highlight the new brand mission of Kathmandu to ‘get people out there’
    • Be ownable to the brand and distinct from competitors

    Sounds impossible? Not for us.

    The Approach

    We started our musical journey by focusing on three important pillars (because the best things come in threes, don’t they?)

    1. The sound of you exploring the outdoors
    2. The wooden melody
    3. The unique bird call

    With the sound of ‘you’ in the outdoors, we blended sounds of people exploring diverse environments to create a palette that evoked the outdoors and provided a rhythmic foundation for the music (like footsteps along a forest path). By not tying the sound to a specific location, we ensured that the sound of Kathmandu feels like it belongs out there, no matter where that is. It leverages natural sounds to increase emotional wellbeing while offering a diverse palette of sounds from different environments across the globe.

    For the wooden melody part, we knew we wanted a sound that felt natural, was influenced by contemporary music and appealing to the outdoor urban millennial. Wood is the living material that humans used to build our first instruments. It’s also a cross-cultural symbol of the outdoors and a key part of Kathmandu’s visual aesthetic. The wooden melody is performed on a tongue-drum, a wooden instrumental popular in contemporary music, which makes it a key driver of recognisability that is catchy, joyful and fun, as well as flexible and easily incorporated throughout all music touchpoints.

    Last but not least, we wanted a head-turning moment, something that could act as an indicator and enhance recall, with an eye for craftsmanship and sustainability. Enter the bird call. Bird calls are like sonic air horns that stand out above all else in a crowded space. Our search led us to the mountains of France, where the passionate craftspeople of Quelle Est Belle use sustainably-sourced PEFC-Certified wood to create handmade wooden bird calls. In collaboration with an ornithologist, we used these bird calls and our own two hands to craft a hybrid call that is unique and recognisable to Kathmandu.

    The Solution

    We tied these three routes together and created a sound grounded in the real world by:

    •  Capturing SFX of people exploring rich, immersive and natural soundscapes
    • Composing a catchy melody that resonates with contemporary music culture 
    • Creating a unique bird call with handmade instruments crafted out of sustainably sourced wood for a clear sound that cuts through

    These three core creative hooks come together as ‘the call of the wild’, and support the brand to sound meaningful, relevant and different. It embodies the spontaneous, joyful spirit of Kathmandu. 

    What’s not to love about that? See you out there. 

    Let’s make your brand massive through the power of music and sound.


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    Brian Barth

    Senior Project Manager & Creative Strategist