Jimmy Dunne Leads Inspire

By Jessie Levine
Special to the Palisades News

Pacific Palisades resident Jimmy Dunne is a businessman—finely attuned to corporate strategy, branding, marketing and advertising. But, perhaps more importantly, he is a man of musical storytelling.

His musical pedigree is gathered from every nook and cranny of the entertainment universe. He has contributed to more than 28,000,000 records and 1,500 television shows, worked with Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Kenny Rogers to produce music, written scores for presidential campaigns, Olympic ceremonies, Pretty Woman and Happy Days.

Jimmy Dunne is the president of Inspire Entertainment. Photo: Lesly Hall
Jimmy Dunne is the president of Inspire Entertainment.
Photo: Lesly Hall

On the Happy Days set, working with the late Garry Marshall was a formative experience for Jimmy, allowing the aspiring songwriter “a peek in the window of the entertainment process. Garry really believed in the importance of story and just embedded that in me. That love of story has threaded through my life as a songwriter and my life through aspects of the world of branding as well.”

Jimmy Dunne tells stories through the medium of music, and he is good at it. Combine this skill with his entrepreneurial spirit and you have Inpsire Entertainment: a Palisades-based music and branding company located in the 881 Alma Real building) of which Dunne is the president and founder.

Inspire Entertainment is widely heralded as the premier brand anthem agency in the country, and has worked with household names such as Whole Foods, Visa, O’Neill Clothing and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to produce catchy brand anthems and experiential branding campaigns.

The Inspire Entertainment creative process “follows the same approach as discovering a graphic logo for a brand as a visual expression of what a company looks like,” Jimmy said. “Only what we’re doing is trying to express what a company sounds like.”

Recently the company, which consists of seven people including Jimmy, wrote the official school song for UC Merced.

Dunne met with the college board, its students, professors, band members and parents to unearth the soul and the story of the university and translate that into a song. “The thing that’s fantastic about Merced is that it has a very unique story,” Dunne said. “The majority of the kids are first-generation students. My job was to express that identity in a song.”

His approach to creating a new song for the university follows a similar pattern to the way a brand anthem is created. “It’s all the same: scoring a television show or writing a song for a brand anthem, you’re just expressing an idea using music,” Dunne said.

“It’s really about trying to capture the essence of something honestly.”

When applied to the business of strategic branding, the team at Inspire first determines: “What does a company feel like? What does the name of a company itself sound like? What are the ‘touchpoints’ of a brand where you’re going to be able to express that musical identity? And then from an instrumentation and orchestration perspective, what is something that fits the demographic and the psychographic of a company?”

The definition of “touchpoints” is simply places where a brand is expressed. Using the example of the university, the touchpoint may be performed by a band as the school song, it may be heard as a three second sound in the elevator in the engineering department, it may be a four-minute introduction musical piece as the chancellor of the school comes up on a stage. For the Inspire team, “It’s a question of figuring out where those touchpoints are and then figuring out how to express them.”

The team then uses the most prominent recurring themes of a brand’s touchpoints to create a brand motif, which is essentially a consistent audio expression of the brand.

“In this day and age, we are inundated with so much, 24/7 on every possible device imaginable,” Dunne said. “It’s not about impressions. It’s about how do you connect with somebody? How do you emotionally engage them?”

Inspire is ultimately in the business of building meaningful connections between people and brands through musical storytelling.

Dunne lives and works in Pacific Palisades with his wife, Catherine, and two daughters, Kaitlyn and Alexis.

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