- How can a cool and very famous song destroy your branding?
- How important are the values beyond the logo?
- How to be remembered, heard and visible?
The value of having your own identity
Several months ago I attended a conference for Business Women, one of the draw cards for me was the presentation by the CEO of a very well known activewear clothing brand. And, it was clear that I was not the only one interested in this talk, with seats completely filled thirty minutes before she was due to speak. As the CEO was welcomed onto the stage, I wriggled to a spot on the rim of the sectioned off area where I could at least get a glimpse of the stage in the distance. Prompted by a question about the history of her brand, the business woman’s story was incredibly inspiring as she spoke with sincerity about the journey of her brand, from her humble beginnings, to some of the struggles she had to overcome before transforming her brand into of the most iconic brands in the country. 500 women sat at the foot of the stage, some mesmerised for the twenty minutes writing notes, others chatting quietly contemplating their own business journeys and envisioning the same success, while the social media lovers posed discreetly for their selfie photos with adorned stage in the background to their Facebook networks. And then, as the CEO was thanked for her time by the event host, followed by a thunderous applause, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” began booming over the PA to mark her exit from the stage - and, in less than five seconds, her brand was forgotten.
As the female-only audience jumped out of their seats to get their ‘Tay Tay’ on before the next presenter jumped on stage, I looked from the outskirts of the crowd with curiosity at the spectacle before me, as I am sure that the song choice was intended to amplify the brand upon exit, and while a brand was indeed amplified that morning, the winner in the battle of the brands according to the singing and dancing audience was ultimately Ms Swift, instead of the inspiring brand I just heard a twenty minute presentation on. I did have a brief chance to meet with the CEO after her presentation, and I asked her, “Why did you choose “Shake It Off” instead of your own song playing after your presentation, and she replied offhandedly with a shrug, “Oh, I just love that song.” And it suddenly occurred to me that brand leaders have forgotten the most valuable part of their marketing: the value of having your own identity.
Only one word
I will venture that I only have to say the word McDonald’s and three things immediately come to mind: Big Mac, The Golden Arches and “I’m Lovin It”, which now just by saying the words alone has already started an earworm tune on repeat in my brain - the power of a catchy jingle.
And it really is a catchy simple song, isn’t it? As a music branding specialist, I was interested to research the origin of this jingle, and in my reading although I knew that McDonald’s hired some top musical artists to bring their slogan to life all the way back in 2003, I was very surprised to learn that Justin Timberlake, the voice of the jingle, was paid a whopping $6 million to create the song.
“brand leaders have forgotten the most valuable part of their marketing: the value of having your own identity.”
Also, interesting to note is that McDonald’s chose to create their own sonic identity, and while they did undertake a huge investment to bring on board Justin Timberlake, it was a deliberate strategy, because unlike Tay Tay ‘shaking it off’, there is no mistaking Justin was here for McDonald’s, not Justin. No surprise that “I’m Lovin It” has since become one of the most universally recognised melodies in today’s market.
Brand values beyond the logo
You could say McDonald’s were ahead of their time in investing in their brand equity, but I would go as so far to say that they not only understood, but they were confident in the value of their own identity beyond their logo. In today’s digital world of social media and short attention spans, where we have less than thirty seconds to make an lasting impression, McDonald’s are still able to hook in their target audience in six simple musical notes that will stay around for generations. How many brands can say the same?
But, hey, we can’t blame the brands - there’s an undeniable stigma surrounding the cheesiness or outdatedness of jingles which may be why ‘jingles’ are falling off the face of the advertising earth.
According to, a 1998 survey of television commercials by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 153 jingles were counted in a sample of 1,279 national, 30-second ads. By 2011, the last year the survey was produced, those numbers had fallen to only eight original jingles out of 306 commercials.
You could say the rising trend of licensing pop music for ads, could have been a contributor to the decline - songs like “Don’t Hold Back” for “Jeep” and “Chandelier” by Sia for Miss Dior (oddly also heard on the TAL Insurance Ad) - well they have the advantage of already being not just known, but popular, don’t they. Brands and artists have seen the value in this type of cross-promotion of an already hit song. Even more accessible, and much cheaper is the trend of royalty-free generic stock music which you can download at the click of a button these days for video. And, while these two music branding alternatives is an easy tick for the Marketing Manager in charge of the ad campaign, brands fail to see that what they are actually doing, is diluting the value of their brand identity with songs that weren’t initially written with the brand in mind.
So whether you are a brand that still resonates with the cheesy jingle or who believes royalty-free generic music will suffice, or if you are a brand that is convinced that you will sell better if you use a commercial pop song the question arises - are you being strategically deliberate with the music branding you use or are you simply filling in silence with a ‘cut and paste’ solution?
In 2017 had the pleasure of meeting Jude and Rory Barnes, a husband and wife team who run a First Aid Training Facility in Melbourne, Australia. Their brand, Results First Aid (RFA) Training conducts in-house training as well as on-site training for individuals and groups. We were very impressed with the delivery of RFA's content, which was made easy to understand and applicable in a friendly environment. Jude and Rory had just rebranded their business with a new logo and they were planning to branch out to advertising mediums including radio.
Their first radio advertisement was created by the in-house producers of the radio station, and while it was informative, and had used broadcast quality voiceovers and generic stock music, whether the strategy was to keep costs down, or that they could not find a work of music that matched the brand, it failed to hit the mark of what Jude and Rory were looking for.
The RFA target audience included a younger demographic, some of which English was a second language, child care workers, tradespeople, swimming coaches. People who were caring for others. People with families. People with children of their own. For RFA, the addition of music to their brand would not only serve them in their advertising, but in their training sessions, connect across all backgrounds, cutting through the language barriers, and it would be practical enough to trigger an automatic response in the event of an emergency of their own.
RFA’s signature Branthem™ (Brand Anthem) “In A Heartbeat”, was a deliberate strategy, composed at 120 beats per minute – the requirement for CPR, is now a valuable tool incorporated in their training sessions, as well as the soundtrack to their social media videos, the lyrics sparking thought about the why, behind their training “Who would I be there in a heartbeat for?” Inspired by the track, their most recent radio campaign now has sourced keywords from their Branthem and their message is real and relevant to their brand audience, Jude remarks the incredible difference in her business as a result of the music messaging.
The power of music
As a music branding specialist, I suppose I am like anyone out there - the best written music has resonated with a moment in my life, the song that reminds me of my wedding day, or my childhood, or that I crank out when you I’m having an awful week, or that I dance like a maniac when no-ones watching. We all have at least one song that triggers an emotion, a memory, a thought. When we listen to it is is not there to sell something to us, but connect with us, we’d even go so far sometimes to express outrightly to others, “I just love that song”, we hum along, we see something in our travels and all of a sudden that song pops in our head - not just a week after that moment, but for years or even decades after that moment. And that is the power of music.
So what does that mean for music branding - well, there is so much potential for music to be used to connect rather than to sell - to build relationships - emotive relationships between brands and their target audiences, like Jude and Rory - so that they can connect on this human level— irrespective of gender, or race, religion or age - an ability to cross barriers and get to the heart of what is truly important. That is the potential of music branding.
There is such incredible untapped potential to find ways to speak beyond one’s logo, to be visible, to be heard, and ultimately to be remembered, like McDonald’s. Music is one of the most effective mediums of reach, able to cross all barriers and achieve this in less than a minute.
The brands that invest in human connectedness rather than the quick sell, who think not about what appeals to their own taste like our activewear CEO, but rather to put themselves in the shoes of their most valuable brand ambassadors and to build trust in those relationships, I believe will thrive in the future.
So, how memorable is your brand?
Dene Menzel is Creative Director at Voice Your Brand. She is a musicpreneur and #1 Best Selling Author with over 20 years of experience in the music industry. Branthem™ is a registered Trademark of Voice Your Brand, Music Branding in Melbourne