Whether at work or at home, we are bombarded with mass quantities of ads and exposed to numerous brands on a daily basis, even when we aren’t aware of it.
Almost everything we use has an association with a specific brand. But what sets apart one brand from another or one advertisement from another? There are obviously many answers to this question, but I think one of the main differentiators is the music and/or sounds we come to associate with a particular brand. How these associations develop may surprise you.
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You know that song you just can’t seem to get out of your head? Sometimes you can’t even remember why it’s in your head to begin with, while other times you’re able to recall or pinpoint exactly what something is by the association it has with a certain song and/or sound. Music has a way of capturing a larger audience that goes beyond just the target, which is exactly why music and/or sound is used in advertising and inadvertently can directly relate to brand association. For instance, I can easily identify a Viagra commercial by the leisurely, laid-back melody it’s become associated with – I am obviously not their target audience, but because I’ve heard it so many times it has become a part of my subconscious association with that brand. This type of psycho-sensory brand association can also occur through a distinct sound like the Aflac duck quack or just a few simple notes, like the six-beat intro to SportsCenter. There was even a time when Harley-Davidson felt the mere sound of their motorcycle engines warranted its own trademarking (click here). Essentially, music and sound in general can become interrelated with a brand without our even realizing how compelling that association is. In this sense, music can define brands.
The Emotional Pull
According to a quote by Eric Sheinkop (President/CEO, Music Dealers and co-author of “Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands”) in the article “Why Music Plays a Big Role When It Comes to Branding”: “Music is the emotional connection to anything visual. The right music makes the visuals more valuable and the product seemingly more meaningful. If there isn’t any music, the visuals better be hilarious or that campaign could suck. Music is what will make you look over at the TV when washing dishes after dinner. Music makes people talk about campaigns and share them with their networks.”
Music is something that can trigger different memories, times, places, emotions, etc., for each person who listens to it, and in turn connects us to a certain commercial we might see or hear. For instance, in 2011 CÎROC Vodka launched their “Art of Celebration” ad campaign which combined Frank Sinatra’s timeless “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and celebrity figures like P. Diddy, Jesse Williams and Chad Michael Murray. In this commercial, the modern-day celebrities emulate a kind of back-in-the-day “Rat Pack” mentality, giving the CÎROC brand the ability to appeal across multiple markets and generations. This type of sensory branding involves hearing a familiar song which evokes nostalgia or thoughts of a specific time, combined with seeing/understanding a particular high-class kind of lifestyle that may remind some us of the past while connecting others with the present. Ultimately, these connections we feel with a brand occur partially because of our emotional reaction to the music and the tone it sets for us. When companies use sounds and music in this way, it is often referred to as audio branding.
Music has a way of connecting us with something conceptual or innate both emotionally and subconsciously. Music allows us to relate personally with an advertisement or brand by extending our comprehension beyond what’s obvious. Leonard Bernstein said it best: “Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.”