Archive for February, 2008


Branding not corporate identity

February 29, 2008

The contemporary Apple seems to have two types of music in their adverts…

For macbooks and the iphone, the music tends to be very mellow and playful; reflecting a “without a care in the world” atmosphere. The message here is simplicity.
For example,

When dealing with the iPod world, the music tends to be slightly more upbeat and energetic. The message here is harder to distinguish but I would say Apple wants to be THE music player and is associating with the rhythmic nature of music (and also as many genres as possible).
Again an example…

This is the general rule of Apple.
Simplicity = Computers (and phones), energy = music.
There are exception like… ipod nano advert…

The song here for the ipod nano advert seems more appropriate for a macbook… yet it works as it is!
Perhaps the ipod nano is trying to communicate a message of simplicity as well, but the “rule” I identified has been broken.
This then is the power of branding, and not corporate identity.

Corporate identity is rational, organised, and consistent. – A logo in the same place of every product. Branding is not.
Branding is about emotion and is allowed to break the rules.
Corporate identity identifies; Branding signifies.


Music with a cause

February 28, 2008


Music in politics reflects what happens when music is used with brands which consumers believe in.

One of my favourite examples is New Labour’s 1997 campaign song ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream. Although many would ridicule the choice of song today, you have to remember it was perfect in 1997.
The message was clear: the Conservatives had messed up the country so badly that it would be lunacy to elect them again; a change for a brighter future is sorely desired, and who better to provide this than Mr Blair & company. However that message does not resonate today.
Campaign songs are a short term strategy, they are there to make an impact and get the message to the public as quickly as possible. Not only do they need to embody the identity and values of the brand, but they also need to be simple, clear, familiar, and powerful. Due to all these reasons, licensed music has a significant advantage of original music.

Getting the song right is also another interesting topic and the current US presidential elections reflect this.
Hillary Clinton has been using the power of the people and new media to choose hers… (Celine Dion’s ‘You And I’ won the vote)

Barack Obama used Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours’. 
However after losing the primary elections to Hillary, a more humble choice was selected –  Bill Whithers’ ‘Lovely Day’.
…and funnily enough, the Republican candidates Mike Huckabee (Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling) and John McCain (John Mellencamp’s ‘Our Country’) were asked by the musicians of their respective songs to stop using them as their campaign songs.

The right song can not only reflect the brand here, but also create a reinforced sense of solidarity by having an anthem for the ideological battle. 
The use of music in politics is not subtle and perhaps it doesn’t need to be. Campaign songs are used for 6 months and then they’re gone. Not only is this a short term strategy, but the combination between music and brand is a short term association.
However I wonder if the current model of music in politics is one which should stay as it is (due to its purposes), or whether it could be improved…

Note: I came across this Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789 – 1996. I find it bizzare that you can actually buy this… although I am very intrigued by it, it seems original music was used in the early years, but has now shifted to licensed music. Obviously there is a story to tell here, and it suggests that the model of music in politics has evolved (for the better?).


The “Itch”

February 23, 2008

I hope that by simply seeing the above picture, I’ve gotten one of the most catchy songs in the world to stay in your head for the next few days.
I found this article which is a few years old but it is still interesting for my purposes. 
The article addresses why we get melodies stuck in our heads. Apparently music can cause an “itch”, which can only be scratched by remembering them.
We’re told that this is a good thing for marketing, i.e. jingles.
Well…. maybe for jingles but not for branding.
To me most jingles are not used for branding purposes precisely because of the “itch”. Today, most jingles you hear will be for direct response adverts (designed to motivate you the consumer to respond to it whether it is buying the product, or phoning to inquire about the service. Think of say ‘Sheila’s Wheels’, not every woman wants car insurance, but those who do will probably remember and look into ‘Sheila’s Wheels’ first because they remember them from the adverts). 
A jingles main purpose is to be mnemonic.
For branding purposes the jingle could mean suicide; again precisely because of the “itch”. As the article recognises, this “itch” is annoying! Presumably the message brands want to send consumers is not one of annoyance (unless we’re talking about the ‘Crazy Frog’).
So for branding purposes we’ve seen the creation of the sonic logo – a short burst of sound designed to encapsulate the emotions of the brand by acting as a vessel for associations. 
The question that remains to me is whether a sonic logo has enough musical quality (by which I mean length in time, and hook) to cause the “itch”… 


The “first” jingle & the practice of licensing

February 21, 2008


The “first” jingle was for/by General Mills’ Wheaties in 1926.
To download the mp3 of this jingle, click here. (Note, link takes you to a new page).
As the story goes, General Mills were ready to shut down the Wheaties brand due to poor sales. However they noticed spikes in sales figures in certain areas – the same areas where a song about Wheaties was being broadcast on radio.
This has then been considered to be the “first” jingle because it was created purely as a song to sell the brand, and it served no other purpose on the radio.

However as you can see from the quotation marks around “first”, there’s more to tell. It’s true that the Wheaties jingle was the first song created solely to sell (at least to our knowledge in the 20th century), but the idea is not new.
Prior to the Wheaties jingle, there were certain restrictions in the medium of radio which prohibited direct advertising (what the Wheaties jingle was). This forced brands to use new ways of advertising. One way was through sponsorship, and there were two types which relate to sonic branding.
The first was where a brand sponsors an orchestra to play music as part of the programming (here we have bands such as the Vick’s VapORub Quartet). Although this wouldn’t be branding in the strictest sense, it was a primitive form where where the choice of music reflected the brand (brand association).
The second form of sponsorship relates more to the evolution of the jingle. Again, brands couldn’t advertising directly yet, but they could sponsor a programme such as a radio serial with the stipulation that the theme song mention the brand name/product; This was basically product placement in the early 20th century.

So you see the Wheaties jingle wasn’t the first jingle, but it was the first to take the form of direct advertising….there’s even more though.

Another contender for the first radio jingle, is one from/by Oldsmobile. Oldsmobile premiered their jingle in the mid 1920s (roughly around the same time as Wheaties), however they had been using the same song since 1908 (pre-commercial radio). In the absence of radio, this song was sang by employees, and taught to consumers.Now surely this means that the Oldsmobile jingle should be considered the “first” jingle… well, yes and no.
You see, Oldsmobile had nothing to do with the creation of their jingle. It was a song written by Gus Edwards and Vincent Bryan in 1905 for their own purposes (back in a time when it was popular to give songs a narrative. The Oldsmobile brand is used as part of the narrative). A few years later in 1908, Oldsmobile caught wind of the songs popularity and decided to buy it off Edwards and Bryan.As a result, when compared to Wheaties, Oldsmobile didn’t have a jingle, they had one of the first licensed song in the history sonic branding.


The package deal

February 20, 2008

I saw this new Jaguar ad recently and I loved it – great use of music.
It caught my attention, and I think it represented the brand very well (energetic, youthful, sexy, sophisticated and swarve – very desirable!).
The problem is the song is “Hush” covered by Kula Shaker (originally by Deep Purple)…I love the Deep Purple version but have always hated the Kula Shaker rendition. The only explanation I can give as to why I like the advert then is the combination of the visuals.
I know that many adverts were bad because of the use of music (In my opinion, all the coffee/health food adverts that have used a James Brown song), but this Jaguar advert is proof that you need both elements to succeed.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

February 20, 2008


…makes makes me think of Honda


The problem with history

February 20, 2008


In researching the history of how music has been used in branding I encountered a problem – How do I tell this story?
I could tell you the differences between a salesman shouting slogans in a marketplace during 17th century London, and Coca Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” (1971); however I would have a hard time telling you how the former evolved to the latter (if it did); or the cultural significance of both; or even how this all relates to story of sonic branding.
Not to mention like with any history, the more you discover, the more convoluted it gets.

To give myself some guidance I have borrowed tactics from a similar field: popular music theory. Tim Wall…
“First we should aim to examine moments in the history of music culture, but rather than choosing just those seen as significant through totalising theory, we should start with single moments and then seek to understand their significance.
Second, we should keep a sense of the mainstream and the margins, but we should seek to examine how they interact as discourses of musical culture and how they make each other meaningful at any particular moment.
Finally, we should be interested in the cultural material out of which a particular practice is built, but we should see this as more than a simple idea of musical roots, and instead as the musical and cultural repertoire that is available for particular music culture practices” (Wall, T., 2003, Pg.18).

It is simply not enough to search for key events in the history of music in branding on Google. I need to understand the pasts significance, and only then will I be able to look at the present, much less the future
This isn’t the only model I will adopt, but it is certainly relevant.

Perhaps this is a good starting point…
Salenoise: a timeline of music and advertising