Music to a Brand’s Ears

In many ways a TV commercial is a mini movie. It has characters and a plot and oftentimes a soundtrack. Only thing missing is coming previews and some popcorn and oh yeah, the overpriced tickets.

But it is the soundtrack I want to talk about for I believe when the right brand gets together with the right music, it is well… harmony. Yes, I went there. It’s true, no matter how corny you think I am being. When you see a TV commercial that is done right and features the right music which ties in perfectly with the visuals and copy, you are seeing a work of art.

The notion of using music in TV commercials is as old as the proverbial hills of course. For countless years advertisers have sought out the proper musical accompaniment to help move their products, services or wares.

Way back in 1989, back when the term “online” meant you were on your phone line – your HOME phone line, David Huron, a professor at School of Music at Ohio State University wrote “Music in Advertising: An Analytic Paradigm.” It was in depth look at the use of music in the advertising world and what affect it had on consumers.

In his report, Huron wrote that “music can serve the overall promotional goals in one or more of several capacities” and he identified those capacities as being:

  • Entertainment – “A good ad engages the attention of an audience, and the most straightforward way of achieving this is to fashion an appeal which is entertaining.”
  • Structure/Continuity – “Music may also be employed in various structural roles. Perhaps the most important structural role is in tying together a sequence of visual images and/or a series of dramatic episodes, narrative voice-overs, or a list of product appeals. This is the function of continuity.”
  • Memorability – “Consumers are known to favor products which elicit some degree of recognition or familiarity — even if it is merely the product’s name. It is one of the peculiarities of human audition and cognition that music tends to linger in the listener’s mind.”
  • Lyrical Language – “Vocal music permits the conveyance of a verbal message in a nonspoken way. Language utterances can sound much less naive or self-indulgent when couched within a musical phrase rather than simply spoken. An individual can respectably sing things which would sound utterly trite if said.”
  • Targeting – “Advertisers are interested in media whose demographic characteristics more nearly match the market segment sought. The choice of media and broadcast scheduling can be used to focus more selectively on a particular group or class of potential consumers.”
  • Authority Establishment – “A simple way of establishing authority is through expert testimony or expert endorsement. Authority may also be fostered through testimonials of non-technical authorities — notably by testimonials of celebrities who have no specific expertise with respect to the product.”

When Huron wrote his piece approximately three-quarters of all broadcast advertising employed music in them in some way, shape or form. My bet is that number is even higher today. Think about it, how many commercials do you see that do not use any type of music in them?

I am a huge believer in marrying the right music with the right brand and right now I think one brand that is doing this very well is Walgreens.

Created by the agency GSD&M, the TV spot titled “1901” that’s currently running features a visual and voice over blend of nostalgia and modern day conveniences that’s perfectly backed up and seamlessly supported by the classic Credence Clearwater Revival song “Down On the Corner.”

The reason I love the use of this song for this brand is for the fact that Walgreens only builds their properties on, where else, a corner. Whatever their reasons are – and I am sure it has to do with traffic patterns and the like, the fact is this particular song with this particular brand fits like a glove.

Now I am sure many musical purists over the age of say 40 will consider it heresy to use such a classic song in an advertisement while those in the younger demos will have no clue who Credence Clearwater Revival is yet alone have heard of the song before.

But regardless, it’s a great song with a great beat (yes I can dance to it) that works wonderfully in concert with what you see onscreen.

What do you think of the Walgreens spot?

What are some examples you can think of a brand and music coming together in harmony?

Or vice versa, an example of where the music and brand simply do not match?