Music and Marketing

Why Jingles Can be Better Brand Builders Than the Latest Hipster Jam

Sound is Key to Sensory Recall, and Every Brand Should Have a Consistent Audio Identity

By Published on .

Imagine this.

You're walking down the street and your mobile device alerts you of what you want to know.

You don't know you want to know it, but it's smarter than you.

Based on your search-engine submissions, cookies, cached information and the analysis of every single social-media post you've ever written or liked, the computer in your pocket will sound the John Varvatos hook informing you that the boots you recently scoured eBay for are in a shop, just down the street and on sale.

Convenient, right?

Perhaps a new definition of lean-back advertising. The product finds the consumer.

So what is music's role?

Sound, one of the brain's strongest sensory stimuli, is an incredibly powerful tool. We just need to better use its ability to influence. If you're not familiar with Pavlov's Dog, a great example is the five-note McDonald's melody ("Ba da bah ba bah, I'm lovin' it.") We've been conditioned to associate those successive frequencies with the Golden Arches in front of the red background because sound and imagery are almost always presented simultaneously. We hear it so often that it brings comfort.

This past summer I needed an air conditioner. The first website I thought to visit was PC Richards. Why? Because I've been to Yankees games where the appliance-retailer's famed "whistle melody" is played after every strikeout.

It just works.

So far, I've refrained from using that dreaded, despicable, disgustingly dirty word: jingle.

The popular FreeCreditReport campaign
The popular FreeCreditReport campaign

The jingle's gotten a bad rap. In 2003, the Economist declared it "dead."

More and more advertisers have turned to synchronizations -- the licensing of a previously written song. But how is that better? It's as if you're baiting consumers with something they're emotionally attached to, only to get them in the room and sell them something completely unrelated.

There's also the risk of associating your brand with a polarizing artist or the song having a negative connotation because it reminds the consumer of a bad breakup.

And most of the time, the association you're shelling out six figures for is fleeting.

If sound is so important for sensory recall, why doesn't every brand have its own audio identity?

Would you have ever heard of without its "singing ad" campaign? And no one's confusing Subway with Jersey Mike's after hearing the first few bars of the "Five Dollar Footlong" tune.

Oscar Mayer permeated pop culture with not one but two famous songs about sandwich meat, first with the "Oscar Meyer Wiener Song" and then the famous 1973 spot "Fisherman" (better known as the "My bologna has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R...")

Everyone knows the $5 Footlong tune.
Everyone knows the $5 Footlong tune.

Some campaigns use both songs and audio branding. In recent spots, State Farm's "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" is both sung by the characters as a type of bat signal to summon their agents and instrumentally used over the logo at the end of the commercial.

Jingles don't need to be complex. They don't have to be entire theme songs. But so many brands today don't have that subliminal factor that utterly distinguishes themselves from their competition.

Simply put, there are too many variables and too much noise these days. Every brand should be bold and distinctive. Unmistakable by the prospective buyer. And one of the most effective ways to achieve this is through music.

This isn't to say synchronizations are useless. They have their place and can be very effective if, say, the artist and brand are a match made in heaven or if the particular message of the song encapsulates exactly that of the product.

But why not put a stake in the ground for them to see as they walk down the street? Inform your customer instantly by your signature ringtone -- or jingle -- without them even having to reach for their phone: You have something they want and it's close.

Tristan Clopet is the Creative Director/Founder of Sussex Music House.
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