Published in The Financial Times
Business fads, I am beginning to discover, are a bit like Bobby Ewing in Dallas: they never die. They may disappear for a while but, when you’re least expecting it, they reappear in your shower cubicle, wearing nothing more than a thin lather of soap.
There is no better illustration of this than the phenomenon of the company song. You probably thought that the days of the corporate ditty were well and truly over – at least since the early millennium, when internet sites started compiling charts of the most cringe-making examples.
Indeed, so ridiculed were the likes of KPMG for their corporate anthems (who can forget the chorus of Our Vision of Global Strategy: “KPMG, we’re strong as can be/A team of power and energy/We go for the gold/ Together we hold onto our vision of global strategy”) that even the Japanese, the most fervent proponents of the company song, seemed to lose faith in them.
But the other month, two colleagues came back from a dinner marking the launch of GE Healthcare with some striking news: the company song was back. Ashen-faced, they reported that after a meal which included chilled foaming cucumber soup, the hosts had treated guests to a rendition of The Modern Healthcare Company. Sung to an old Gilbert & Sullivan tune, this composition included the remarkable couplet: “And now we’re GE Healthcare our aim’s to be more visionary/ protecting the environment, whilst improving cost efficiency.”
The company song has had a revival in Japan too: earlier this year Nihon Break Kogyo, a demolition firm, released its corporate anthem as a single, only for it to become a hit in the Japanese pop charts. A little catchier than The Modern Healthcare Company, it featured the lines: “We will destroy houses! We will destroy bridges! We will destroy buildings! To the east! To the west!”
Having failed to make the most of the fad the last time round, I decided that it was time the FT had a song. What’s good enough for KPMG, GE Healthcare and Nihon Break Kogyo is good enough for us. And after a little research I found a company in Tokyo – Mysong – willing to write one.
I e-mailed them saying that their price tag of Y367,500 (Pounds 1,880) sounded a little steep: would they waive the fee? After all, it can’t be everyday that they get a chance to compose something for a prestigious international business newspaper. A short while later, I received a message from Shinji Nakagawa, asking whether the song, if composed, would be adopted by the FT as its official anthem.
I replied that this was something that my boss would have to decide – but at this stage there were no other contenders. “Dear Ms. Sathnam Sanghera,” wrote Shinji a few days later. “Many thank you for your e-mail messages. I understood all of your requests. Moreover, we are ready to respond to your request.”
The message added that, to get started, Mysong needed three bits of information: 1. A statement of our company philosophy; 2. A list of key words to be included in the song; 3. A choice of song genre (i.e. rock, blues, jazz). The first answer was the easiest to provide. Reading from an official source, I wrote: “The FT’s vision is to be the world’s leading source of business news, comment and analysis in print and online. Our values are accuracy, authority and integrity. The values of Pearson, our parent company, are brave, imaginative and decent.”
Point 2 was harder to address. I wanted to get the names of our star writers into the song, but realised it might be difficult to fit “Guy de Jonquie`res” or “Friederike von Tiesenhausen Cave” into a ditty. In the end, I played safe and sent Mysong the following list: bond yields; share prices; unrivalled coverage of the international capital markets; pink; broadsheet; world business newspaper; indispensable; lovely arts coverage.
At the same time, I decided that rock, blues or jazz wouldn’t really be suitable: we needed a song that was grand, anthemic and orchestral. Shinji was swift in his reply. “Dear Mr Sathnam Sanghera, I appreciate your quick answering very much. I understood your idea. I inform good information for you. Our president determined to make your company song. Then, we will begin to make the words for your company song tomorrow. However, this process is very hard work. Therefore, we will spend on this work for about two weeks. Please understand the above situation. And please wait without haste.”
I waited without haste. Ten days later, I received a draft of the lyrics with a note from Shinji saying: “Supposing there are a part which you want to correct, and a part to which cannot be convinced in the words, please advise me unreservedly.” I worked out that this probably meant that I should read the lyrics and correct anything that wasn’t right.
Verse one: “It unrivalled covers the international capital/ Brightness of stocks/ Brightness of the future/ A treasure on this Earth/ Conveys hot movements/ When you read it/ You come to life!/ The pink of newspaper Financial Times.”
Verse two: “It covers art to be loved/ Return of bonds/ Return of people/ A star on this Earth/ Conveys hot movements/ When you read it/ You come to life!/ The pink of newspaper Financial Times.”
Reprise: “A treasure on this Earth/ Conveys hot movements/ A star on this Earth/ Conveys hot movements/ The pink of newspaper Financial Times.”
Frankly, I thought these lyrics were incredible. I sent an e-mail to Shinji saying so. The melody line arrived in MP3 format soon afterwards. Should you want to listen to it, you can e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy. I haven’t been able to make the words correspond to the music as yet, but maybe you’ll do better.
Listen to the FT company song by clicking here Mp3 File