Our intern, Marc Wanninger, took an idea and ran with it, learning a lot in the process.
If you haven’t heard Ripples’ music, take a moment to watch one of our videos and listen. Grisly, jazzy and lyrical, our music weaves our story through its smooth melodies, meticulously wrapped into a consistent, overarching ‘sound’.
This was no small feat, as our former intern who made the themes, Marc Wanninger, would attest. At the start of his internship our CEO and founder, Anne Toba, noted Marc’s musical background and asked him if he would be able to create original tracks for our marketing videos. The project was open-ended, and Anne was relying entirely on Marc’s expertise, giving him the freedom to come up with his own unique ideas and contributions. Marc took on the challenge and began to lay the groundwork for what he called Ripples’ “audio brand”.
The first step to building a successful audio brand, Marc told us, was to keep in mind the target audience: “decision makers for corporate and foundation grants, wealthy individuals and young people looking for valuable internship experience in the field they are interested in.” Marc knew grants and donations underpin Ripples’ mission to empower African women. He also knew that Ripples’ audio brand had to appeal to adventurous, industrious students seeking new experiences working at a non-profit to make positive change in Africa. Marc’s solution was to bridge Western pop with African music themes to express Ripples’ brand personality and values.
Marc pulled out all the stops, using his connections to bring in an impressive array of percussion instruments inspired by Ripples’ programs and its commitment to preserving Africa’s rich culture. One of these was a drum native to North Africa with a goblet-shaped, metallic base and a sharp and punchy beat called a ‘doumbek’. Another was a ‘shekere’ from West Africa: a dried gourd laced with beads that, when he shook it, rattled like rain.
Marc knew that recognizability and flexibility were key to building an audio brand. But as he learned, one other thing, consistency, would be a challenge: “One of the things that I wanted to do was to create musical consistency… I essentially wanted Ripples to have its own sound… One of the challenges was finding a consistent way to take each of the themes and make variations from them.”
Marc came up with his own solution: to segment tracks into smaller sections and to craft multiple variations for each section. He then designed choruses separately to maintain continuity and glue the themes together. At the end of his experience at Ripples, he presented a musical palette with nearly 20 variations that is still in use today.
Marc’s experience with Ripples challenged his limits and gave him the confidence to voice his ideas and complete projects using his unique skill-set. “This internship is great :),” Marc reported in his final interview, “I’ve learned a lot and hope the music will benefit the Ripples USA.”