Jingles: Consumer learning through sonic branding
I grew up in an era (in the not too distant past) where you could sing along to nearly every brand. Walking along the supermarket aisles, my mental jukebox of 30-second ditties played on loop mode as my eyes scanned the various levels of brand filled shelves. Obviously the chocolate and candy tunes played on high rotation due to my height and desire at the time, every step in sync with the pace, rhythm and call to action the jingles were creating.
My all-time favourite confectionary jingles were: Mars Bar – ‘A Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play’, Lifesavers – ‘Get a hole lot more out of life’ and the innocent jingle for the Gaytime ice-cream brand – ‘It’s so hard to have a Gaytime on your own’. Like them or loathe them, jingles have been an influential part of Australian advertising and consumers’ brand awareness. So much so that in recent polls conducted by various magazines and television stations to celebrate 50 years of Australian television, almost all of the favourites and most memorable had either a jingle or a prominent music track as a feature of the campaign.
It’s no surprise then that brand guardians are coming back to the humble jingle as a way to connect to consumers and give them a long lasting tune to sing along to. From Mortein’s ‘Louie da Fly, straight from rubbish tip to you’ to XXXX beer’s ‘I can feel a Fourex coming on’, the humble jingle made us laugh, cry and really gave us something to sing about.
The death this year of legendary jingle writer Alan ‘Mo’ Morris, one half of the famed MoJo advertising team, was a truly sad event for many reasons, but a poignant reminder of how truly original jingles together with brave clients can turn brands into absolute icons. These guys inspired me to listen closely to music in advertising, with their larrikin sense of humour and incredible ability to summarise a brand’s values into 30-second songs. They made me feel good, feel patriotic and feel like the brands were something I needed to protect and respect. To the marketing managers who bravely signed off on the jingles, you ‘oughta be congratulated’, for these brands truly lasted the test of time and consumer loyalty.
Thirty seconds can last a lifetime
As a child in the seventies, I was obviously not purchasing beer or margarine, but 20 years later when these items were more relevant to my life, the jingles came flooding back from some dormant cerebral hiding place pushing the brand names and the associated feelings back into front of mind position. Good jingles never die, they stay young forever. Classic jingles such as Meadow Lea’s ‘You oughta be congratulated’, World Series Cricket – ‘C’mon Aussie, C’mon’ and Tooheys beer – ‘I feel like a Tooheys or two’, were just a few of the brand tunes that continue to stay with me and influence my brand purchasing today.
Jingles might make you smile, evoke memories of innocent singing into a hairbrush or your first heartbreak in the same way that pop songs do. Jingles are essentially pop songs, they just don’t have a middle eight, multiple verses or two-minute drum solos. They are a catchy 30-second chorus, penned in the same way an artist would write a heartfelt love song, the only difference being they are aimed at instilling a brand trigger in your mind instead of a break-up story.
As with a good pop song, the long-term memorability of jingles and connection to brand values make them an extremely powerful marketing tool. The emotional links embedded within the jingle can become a driving force behind a consumer choosing one brand over another. It might make the jingle sound devious in its intention, but it simply is just the power of music in general that has this effect.
You can’t stop the music
Music can motivate, stimulate and even seduce the most reluctant. How many great speeches are you able to recall instantly versus the number of pop song choruses you can sing? For most of us, music is a lot easier to remember than the spoken word. That’s why important information such as the alphabet is often taught to children via songs. How quickly can you recall the melody for ‘Happy Birthday’ or the ‘Bridal Waltz’? These tunes have embedded themselves into our memories and can be recalled instantly because they are easy to remember and have been repeated throughout our lives.
Jingles use the same principle, a brand chooses the emotional association it would like to own and together with the positioning line or slogan, the song is created and recorded in a particular style so that it can be easily identifiable for a particular category, product or service. If the jingle is played frequently and it ‘works’, it will be associated with the brand at various times and can influence the final purchase choice if counter forces are not working on the consumer. When you use a jingle for your marketing campaign, remember that apart from the branding exercise it’s also about ownership of a feeling.
Most successful jingle writers and marketers alike follow the same basic principle for great branding. Create long-term brand positions that satisfy the basic human wants of everyday Australians and use music and emotion to connect with them.
The brand is everything we have as a business; it should be protected forever with every investment decision ensuring the brand will still be valued and sought after in years to come. So why, when the market is getting more and more cluttered, are so many brands opting to go for the quick fix branding solutions where a well-known music track is borrowed to try and make consumers associate the particular values of the song/artist with the values of the brand?
Take for instance car ads. Shot of car driving down stretch of road, then insert well-known music track. I can’t honestly tell you one car brand from the other, so while I’m enjoying the visuals and sound, the brand has made no impression on me. I can, however, whistle the Toyota jingle – ‘Oh what a feeling!’
Popular music has and always will have an important place in advertising, but when you switch on the TV, it’s like watching an episode of Video Hits or MTV. Perhaps the creative teams have become increasingly time poor or maybe they have become amazing salespeople convincing clients to part with hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent 30 seconds of emotion in the hope their audience will think they are hip too.
One of the biggest problems of this instant attempt for street credibility is that you can never own the song outright. In my lifetime, I’ve seen a repeat of songs used by different brands, sometimes within the same product category. This seems absurd to me. What chance do you have to connect to your customers if the branding keeps changing? It’s important to remember that lasting trust and brand loyalty is built through consistency. If you changed your logo every month, it would definitely ensure brand hari-kari.
Some brands have benefited greatly from these popular musical alliances such as apple’s iPod with the Jet song – ‘Are you gonna be my girl’, or the José González version of ‘Heartbeats’ for Sony Bravia. This is clever for multinational brands that can afford to purchase tracks from new artists before they break, so the brand gets to enjoy the innovation and cutting edge association. For the remaining brands with modest budgets that need to show a result, this may not be the best direction to travel and doesn’t always guarantee success.
The other side to well-known music in advertising is when you take an existing, well-known track and alter it to fit a brand message. One such example is the classic ad for Decore shampoo, which changed the words of the famous Gene Chandler song ‘Duke of Earl’ to ‘Decore’. Other examples include the current Banana Boat commercial, which uses the Piero Umiliani hit song ‘Mahnah Mahna’, which substitutes the words ‘Banana Boat’, or even the Good Guys or Cadbury Chocolate ads both using Beach Boys songs. Sure, they’re clever at times, but the brand will never ever own the copyright nor the freedom to use them for an unlimited period of time.
The sound of your brand
The brands that start to utilise original music and sound consistently in their marketing today will be the next generation of iconic brands enjoying increased loyalty and brand awareness tomorrow.
If a logo is the face of a brand, a jingle is its voice. With so many opportunities for customers to hear your audio outside traditional on-air media, the playing field is wide open and we are seeing more brands developing original music or audio elements than ever before.
Realistically you’ve got fewer than 30 seconds to make an impact. The reason jingles stand out is because they don’t sound like something you know. Think about iconic brands we can all sing along to like Aeroplane Jelly, Vegemite, Cottee’s Cordial, AAMI or SPC Baked Beans. These are great examples of brands that wisely invested in jingles early on, and they are still very much alive today.
If you can recall the sound of mega brand Intel Pentium, then you’ve experienced a sonic brand. The series of notes of its audio logo may sound simple to the human ear, but it’s a complicated art form, relatively new to Australia and soon to become a major part of the advertising soundscape. There are many consumer touch points available to us today. Apart from traditional media such as TV and radio, the online, in-store and outdoor possibilities are growing rapidly due to advances in bandwidth and wireless technology. The sonic logo is basically a shorter, more condensed jingle.
The more touch points a brand has available to get its sound heard, the more effective the campaign can be. Consumers interacting with your brand are then offered a consistent aural communication to evoke a particular emotion. An example is British Airways, which used the sonic brand in its advertising and also fleshed it out into a full length song broadcast as people settled into their seats. The effect was calming as customers felt a sense of trust and professionalism at hearing something familiar. Other effects of sonic branding have been used in banks and retail outlets with amazing outcomes, showing how the tone, style and pace of the audio can dramatically influence customer and staff members to feel calmer and more confident, or, conversely, to make a purchase immediately.
It’s an extremely exciting time for marketers with a range of sonic opportunities waiting to be exploited and new ones that haven’t even been thought of. Every brand deserves to have a unique sound, so enjoy the challenge and give your customers something to sing about.