Chances are your brain echoed “is Folgers in your cup” after you read the title of this blog post. I would also bet that you could easily fill in the following blanks: “Break me off a _____ of that ___ ___ bar!”
Wondering why I’m playing musical trivia with you?
I was driving in my car, listening to the radio, instinctively singing along to every song I knew, when all of a sudden I realized I forgot to change the station when the commercials began. Why did I forget? Because I found myself singing along (and I don’t mean subtly humming; I mean belting as I would to Adele) to the horribly catchy, forever-sticking-in-your-head, commercial jingle that was playing. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I swiftly changed the channel in disgust.
After my slightly traumatic experience in the car, I wondered if music in advertising has any other effect than to ruin your SAT score because you just heard the Meow Mix theme song on your way to the testing center and it is now stuck in your head for the next four hours of the exam. It turns out these marketers know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.
Having received my Bachelor’s in Psychology, it’s always a pleasant surprise when I can relate what I learned to business/the real world (told you, mom and dad!). The truth about repetitive advertising, as in the case of catchy commercial jingles, is that there is a psychological process working in the background to get you to like something after the fourth, fifth, sixth time you’re exposed to it. [Note: Apparently this does not apply in marriage.] You don’t even have to know that a stimulus exists; the mere exposure to it (conveniently referred to as the mere exposure effect – thank you, R.B. Zajonc) is enough to sway your preferences towards it. The human brain takes familiarity into account when judging safety, thus we gravitate towards brands that we know over ones that we’ve never heard of. You might be thinking, but what if I consciously hate ads? Shouldn’t I hate everything associated with the ad, including the very thing it’s advertising, i.e., those commercials with the annoying jingles? Unlucky for us, psychology does not have our back on this one: research shows that simply hearing a brand name is enough to make us like it more going forward.
Marketing: 1. Brain: 0.
Another music-related example: we’ve probably all experienced what I call the Taylor Swift Effect. It’s when you hear her new song for the first time and swear to yourself that you will never put your ears through that sort of suffering again. Then you hear it for the second time against your will – maybe in a cab or at your little sister’s Sweet 16 – and you begin to develop a sort of jealous hatred, because come on, anyone could play those four chords over and over again, are you serious? The third time you listen to the new TSwift song, it’s in your closet under several blankets to be sure your roommates don’t find out. The fourth time turns into the fifth which turns into the sixth which turns into your newfound obsession for TSwizzle that you just can’t deny any longer. #SquadGoals, am I right?
All The Feels
Maybe silly commercial jingles and overplayed pop songs aren’t the best examples, but there is no doubt that music can evoke emotions that you never knew you had. Music in advertising can help to establish an emotional relationship with consumers that can be critical to the success of a brand or product.
Matthew Sommer, COO of Brolik, said it best:
“Music helps brands to form an emotional connection with their target audience in a unique way, in that it affects a wider audience than most other forms of artistic expression. With so much competition for attention, advertisers can’t afford not to use every tool in their shed, especially one as emotive as music.”
A well-known example of a commercial which used music perfectly to the company’s advantage is this P&G commercial from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Test it for yourself: without sound, this ad would be completely worthless. Then rewatch it with sound and feel all the feels that the art of music in advertising can make you feel (I suggest you grab a tissue).
I’m Confused – Is This Article About Coffee or Music?
Okay, my point is… music in marketing is important, whether we like it or not. Consciously or subconsciously, repetitive jingles, Taylor Swift songs, and tear-jerking commercials have a profound effect on us as consumers. Marketers should use music as a tool for creating lasting awareness and building strong customer relationships. Because evidently, it’s working.
- Zajonc, R.B. (2001). Mere Exposure: A Gateway to the Subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 224-228.
- Markman, Art. (2008). To Know Me Is to Like Me I: Mere Exposure. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/200811/know-me-is-me-i-mere-exposure
- Olenski, Steve. (2014). Why Music Plays A Big Role When It Comes To Branding. Retrieved from http://www.business2community.com/branding/music-plays-big-role-comes-branding-0773299#GiJQA6i0QgkwAXUZ.97