How music in advertising can make a brand sing


Music can be just as important in promoting the value of a brand and communicating its message as any other element – but it’s often overlooked. Eric Scheinkop, President/CEO of Music Dealers and co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands, asserts three ways in which music can bring value to a brand: identity, engagement and currency. Vysh Ranjan, from the Aegis Advance graduate program, analyses these three key elements and looks at how brands can make sure they’re singing from the right song-sheet.
  • Identity

How often have you got far too excited when your favourite song comes on? You feel an inherent sense of identification with it: it’s your song, it’s your jam. If you get that, then you’ll get why music can be so important for creating identity for all sorts of things, and brands can be one of them.

Disney is a great example of a brand that has developed its identity over a long period of time with a signature style of music. The familiar theme has created a timeless resonation of Disney in people’s minds that is both universally relatable and triggers a host of memories and associations for each individual.

Owning music in this way can be as powerful, if not more so, than visual associations of a brand logo, picture or design. For example, McDonald’s have taken ownership of the ‘I’m lovin’ it’ whistle, originally from a Justin Timberlake song, and made it a central feature of their own identity.

However, if we look at the Forbes list of the most valuable brands: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, IBM, McDonald’s, General Electric, Samsung, Toyota, Louis Vuitton, etc, it’s surprising that the majority of these brands do not have a recognisable theme song or musical association.

Tip: There is room in this space to be creative. Think about the impact music can have on your brand identity and recognise that it can play a part in your messaging. Recognising this can be an initial step to leading our brands into new territory that experiments with music as an identity. We do a lot of work that looks at consumer behaviour, habits, brand affinity, the effectiveness of visual cues/prompts – but envisioning music to be a top influencer of buying habits and memorability could be a new and pioneering facet that keeps us lead-thinkers in media and advertising creativity.

  • Engagement

What is it specifically about music that helps a consumer along? This is difficult to isolate, but music can be solely responsible as an ideal mood-setter for a consumer or target audience. Here’s an example where Sony advertise their 4k TV displays. Although an inherently visually-based ad, the choice of music and how it has been woven into the cinematography makes for a really great ad experience. The overall mood created by the ad is epic and fantastical to reflect the futuristic and cutting edge offerings of the all-new 4k displays.

Thinkbox conducted a study that identified the standout secondary content factor in creating engaging ads to be music. Switching a modern day multi-tasker’s attention to the TV for an ad can be a tough ask, but music that has popularised itself through ads has shown how we can get people singing and dancing along to our ads if they’re done right. We all remember ‘I See You Baby’ from the 2003 Renault Megane ads!

Tip: Sometimes, appreciating how to best engage people can even come down to pure science. There are three types of learning styles: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Whilst visual learners account for around 65% of people, finding it easiest to retain information from visual sources and cues, a massive 30% are auditory learners. We do a lot to capture our visual learners, but effective use of music could be pivotal in best connecting with that 30%!

  • Currency

Providing a buzz and showing that your brand is at the frontier of innovation and culture is crucial to effective advertising. This is probably where music plays its most standout role.

The Apple MacBook Air commercial, adidas’ All in or Nothing campaign and Tesco F&F Clothing’s commercial are all examples of this done well.

The Tesco example is particularly interesting as it shows a clothing brand that wouldn’t traditionally be associated with cool or progressive culture having a fair attempt at creating content that combines some fun choreography with a trendy house track.

Tip: Lots of people like lots of different types of music – so how can we decide what’s ‘current’ AND universally likeable? Firstly, currency need not be understood as the latest hits on the charts; in fact, far from it. Many brands make the mistake of trying to look modern and cool by whimsically choosing a big pop hit and crudely overlaying it on their ad. This doesn’t show depth of thought and neither does it represent their brand fairly. Currency through music requires a deeper understanding of where your brand fits into the bigger cultural picture in society. It is what music appropriately combines your brand and your message with your target audience’s culture.

When it comes down to it, music is expression; almost reducible to a primal level. A brand that can aptly harness this medium through its communication to target audiences can wholly capture individuals without even needing to sell-in its product features. Brands are constantly searching for the best ways to communicate and, more often than not, music can be integral to expressing themselves effectively and artistically.

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