The Euphony of Brands……Dancing & Singing!

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1626 , Published on 17 December 2012
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Music, in different forms, has always enthused humans & other existent species through psychological and sensory engagement. These were the primary reasons why music found its way into commercial advertising and became an important instrument for marketing and advertising campaigns since the early days of radio. General Mills is often credited for their first musical commercial of 1926 to boost the declining sales of Wheaties cereal (the effort in fact literally saved the cereal - General Mills was even ready to discontinue before the success of the commercial). Seeing the success, companies soon jumped on the bandwagon of Musical Advertising, which gained momentum during 1950s, and further exploded through1960s and 70s. The story is still on.


Characteristics of Music: What Music Does?

Research has established that music enhances the emotional response to a brand & creates a long lasting connect. Music is also known to perform multiple tasks in advertising. David Huron (1989) categorized these functions into six categories. These attributes not only perform their individual task(s) but also interplay with others to produce the desired effect. The categories he suggested are:

1) Entertainment: This aspect of music adds aesthetic value & a greater appeal to an advertisement, thereby making it more attractive & able to engage more attention. As such, music need not necessarily create any special affinity with a particular product or service, in order to play an effective and useful function but functions more like a bridge between viewer and advertisement.

2) Structure and Continuity: These two are the most important attributes that music lends to an advertisement by lending a structural framework & a mediating continuity. Music, in an advertisement, emphasizes dramatic moments, structures the told narrative (tells a narrative itself or functions as an anchor that completes the overall meaning) & assigns antagonistic protagonist roles to other elements within the narrative by creating typical musical figures, harmonies or melodies.

3) Memorability: Musical vibrations, due to their mnemonic characteristics, are known to be memorized more easily than a piece of spoken language or images since music tends to linger in the listeners’ mind, especially in the absence of any visual means. Through the effects produced by rhyme and reception, music aids mental faculties in brand retention & recall. In a nutshell, memorability is about immediate association of a brand to an unknown song.

4) Lyrical Language: Over the years, desensitization has led to viewers’ skepticism which acts as barrier in communicating the brands’ proposition to consumers. Therefore, in contemporary advertisements, the advertisers have started favoring mostly emotional & poetic appeals over informational, logical appeals and have done it successfully using music’s lyrical touch. Since music can communicate a message without the customer consciously noticing it, advertisers have used it for providing rational facts (in the same time by mixing speech with song/musical tune). The speech makes logical & factual appeal on one hand while music makes emotive & poetic appeal and thus produces a perfect communication mix.

5) Targeting and Authority Establishment: Different social & demographic groups have long been identified with specific musical styles. This association with musical styles has assisted in targeting various segments. The distinctive style & mode of engagement functions as a socioeconomic, non verbal identifier for these target groups - an instrument for addressing a specific audience. These attributes, though can be made to work together in inseparable ways. For example, an advertiser can make either a diegetic (the source of the music is visible) or a non-diegetic (the source of the music is not visible) use of music to produce totally different effects, depending on the context or the motive. All this enables an advertiser to develop a long lasting experience that enhances the target group’s ability to connect images and music to social & psychological motivations thereby creating meaningful impressions.

Music Is Worth a Thousand Words & Images: Interaction between Music & Brand

Music can instantaneously communicate complex social or attitudinal messages (directed persuasive messages that attempt to change or alter a certain attitude) which words & images most often fail to do, since it engages a greater part of brain & nervous system. This leads to a better response to music than to other stimuli used in advertising. It is the number & nature of underlying dimensions (dark, jazzy, energizing, calming, or sophisticated) that determine how people describe their perceptions of music. The degree to which people are able to (or tend to) evaluate the music & the brand on various dimensions (dark, jazzy, energizing, calming, or sophisticated) determines the music – brand congruity [Mary S. Wagner (2008)]. A moderate congruity between the music and the brand enables much better & more positive evaluations of the brand and advertisement than either high or low congruity [Mandler (1982) and Berlyne (1972)].

Moreover the music should be contextual (i.e. it must have a congruence with the idea being expressed or communication being intended for a product, idea or experience) & it must be composed keeping in view, for example, the type of product, the brand image, the value proposition of the product, the characteristics of target customer segment and the attitude or response that the advertisement wants to generate. For example, a piece of music that appeals to teenagers may not be able to engage elderly people; influential & educated consumers differ from uneducated (even though influential) consumers in their musical tastes. A musical jingle that sings for a social campaign may be a misfit for a consumer product. Likewise there are numerous parameters that need to be considered & evaluated while amalgamating a brand with a piece of music. It is the connotation that this music is able to transfer to the product, service, and/ or experience, that establishes a relationship with the product/ offering & this all occurs inside the mind of the consumer/viewer. Therefore in short, music should have the same positioning as the offering it is trying to promote.

The music, through its attributes, augments the value of a product (though a bad musical note can do the opposite as well) by establishing a connect / interface between consumer’s / viewer’s personal attributes (attitudes, emotions, personality, mood, social status, feelings, past experiences, memories, ambitions & even anxieties) with the product attributes or the value that product, service, experience or idea intends to propose. Simply put, a good coherence between these attributes improves the perception, connect & recall of the offering (brand, product, service, experience or idea).


Therefore, to be effective, an advertisement should strike a fine balance between the meaning that it adopts from a used musical piece and the context that the musical piece provides in return to become authentic. As such, the more natural the relationship between the personal attributes of the viewer, those of musical note & of product is, the more phenomenal success the advertisement & the brand achieve. And greater are the benefits that these derive from this symbiotic relationship.

The Unforgettable Jingles: What Music achieved for Brands

I still remember those melodious jingles from 80’s & 90’s which probably will always stay close to my heart. That simply reflects the credibility that good sounds can add to commercials. These successful jingles are testimonies of “how the fit between a piece of music and a brand in a product evaluation setting may affect attitudes toward the brand and the advertisement” [Mary S. Wagner (2008)]. Thus, music positioned these brands as cultural & social phenomena which earned them a status in society. That is the potential of good music in advertising. The success stories have been numerous & include not only products but also campaigns of social & national importance. Some noteworthy of them in Indian context include:

1. Cadbury Dairy Milk’s “Asli Swaad Zindagi ka”

2. Vodafone’s “Stay by my side…”

3. Airtel: Proud to be Indian

4. Airtel Signature tune by A.R. Rahman

5. Reliance India Mobile Signature Tune

But this musical journey will continue. With technology as an enabler, a lot more is yet to be explored and witnessed. The future will see a complete transition of how these branding jingles are targeted & delivered to achieve a greater cognitive

This article has been authored by Anirudh Vats from IMI.


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