Music: The Unsung Hero of Advertising

Christine Birkner
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • ​​Songs help marketers connect with their customers on an emotional level, which can lead to purchase.
  • Generic background music helps consumers retain information, such as pricing or product features, and works better for categories such as retail, QSR and healthcare, according to Nielsen.
  • Pop songs offer a one-two punch: They evoke an emotional response and help drive sales.

Music and advertising have gone hand in hand since the dawn of the radio era, but these days, music plays a much more strategic role for brands than simply trying to boost brand recall.


“Music is kind of the unsung hero of advertising,” says Daniel Jackson, CEO of London-based Cord Worldwide, a music licensing firm specializing in music in branding, and co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for theWorld’s Smartest Brands. “It’s in the background and it’s kind of an afterthought, but when you get it right, it creates a halo of engagement that delivers way more than the budget for it should say.”

Songs help marketers connect with their customers on an emotional level, which can lead to purchase, and different types of music can elicit different audience responses, according to “I Second That Emotion: The Emotive Power of Music in Advertising,” a study published by New York-based Nielsen Holdings N.V. in July 2015. In the study, commercials with some form of music performed better across four metrics—creativity, empathy, emotive power and information power—than those that didn’t have music.

Generic background music helps consumers retain information, such as pricing, promotions or product features, and works better for categories such as retail, QSR and healthcare, says Julanne Schiffer, senior vice president of insights and analytics at Nielsen Entertainment. “Selecting the proper music is critical in the process of understanding who you’re going to be targeting and what the messaging is,” she says. “If you’re a fan of the artist or the music, it’s going to deliver a positive impact in terms of motivating consumers to buy.”

Enter pop songs, which offer a one-two punch: They evoke an emotional response and help drive sales, according to Nielsen. In 2014, HP saw a 26% increase in sales among Meghan Trainor fans while the ad for its x360 tablet, which featured her song “Lips Are Movin’,” was airing. The x360 campaign was aimed at teens and twentysomethings, who constitute the majority of Trainor’s fan base. Nielsen helped HP measure the results of the commercial’s music on the brand’s sales by surveying households in its database to identify whether they were Meghan Trainor fans and then correlating the number of fans with HP’s sales data.

 

 HP Presents: Behind-the-Scenes of Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin’”

 


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art of music’s appeal in advertising, of course, is simply to build off of a song’s or artist’s budding popularity and relevance, Schiffer says. “Brands want to be seen as trendsetters and cutting-edge, and that’s why they tend to align themselves with new artists.” ​

That strategy can pay off for brands and artists alike, as consumers could look more favorably on brands that expose them to the work of new and exciting artists, or to future hit songs before they go mainstream, says Eric Sheinkop, co-founder of Chicago-based music licensing platform Music Dealers, which has provided music for ads for Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald’s. Sheinkop also is co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands and Return of the Hustle: How the Marketing Power of Music is Resurrecting the Industry, which will be released in 2016. “If [the artist is] going on tour, if they have a single releasing soon, if the brand puts that in a commercial just before that single is released, the brand looks like the one who broke that artist,” he says.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co.​ had success with this tactic, licensing new artist Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” for its ads for the Ford Edge SUV beginning in May 2015. The ad—which used the tagline “Be Unstoppable,” and included a woman’s voiceover, which said: “2,434,311 people and only one me. I’ll take those odds”—fit the theme of the song’s lyrics, which are all about empowerment, says Travis Calhoun, communications manager for trucks and utilities at Ford. “We wanted to evoke confidence and find music that could do that that was also new and current.”

 

 2015 Ford Edge Commercial Odds Song by Rachel Platten

 

The timing of the campaign was serendipitous, as well, Calhoun says. “Rachel debuted the single on Good Morning America in the beginning of May, and the following week, that track reached the top 10 on iTunes and our commercial debuted less than seven days later. … The emotion we were trying to invoke, that sense of empowerment, we really felt we hit it out of the park with the music choice.” Ford hit it out of the park on the revenue front, as well: Sales of the Edge were 30% higher in June 2015 versus June 2014, and were 17% higher in July 2015 versus July 2014, according to the company.

Effective music placement in advertising—finding the right match for your brand and your audience—can prompt more than just consumer interest and engagement, Jackson says. “When people hear a piece of music they like, they share the content that’s associated with it. The true impact that it should have on any ad is not ‘Does it tell the story?’ but, ‘Does it get you more ‘likes’ and shares and views?’”

Adds Sheinkop: “If you trust the brand to help you find new content, it’s not just about loyalty. It turns you into an advocate of the brand, which is the holy grail.” How many people can you get to sing along?

 

 Advertising Music: 79 Songs You Recognize from TV But Don't Know The Name

 


​This article was published in the October 2015 issue of Marketing News​​​

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Author Bio:

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Christine Birkner
Christine Birkner is the senior staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Weekly. E-mail her at cbirkner@ama.org.
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