Jingle Bells

I’m normally a Christmas sort of a gal. I love the sights, smells and sounds of the season. I love the giving (I am more of a giver than a getter, always have been) and the joy of the season that pervades everything except possibly travel. As far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving (the best of holidays in the States) is the start of the holiday season. That is, usually. But, this year, in spite of the lights, decorations and even Christmas trees that have sprung up everywhere over the past couple of weeks, I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling very Christmas-y until I started hearing Christmas tunes.

This got me thinking about the power of music and about how much I love a good jingle. They are so few and far between these days. I’d argue that this is the key reason for the viral success of ‘Dumb Ways to Die’.

If your house is anything like mine, jingles are always subject to re-wording, it’s true, but jingles can have real sticking power in their own right. After all, who doesn’t like a lot of chocolate on their biscuits or want to hear about the hippo who took an apricot, a guava and a mango…

Music is powerful. Google ‘the power of music’ and many of the hits will be about scientific research (be it articles or books) about what music can do. I can still remember a good few phone numbers that featured in jingles in my childhood (mainly to call pizza places that probably don’t even exist any more) and, if you grew up in the States in the 80s, it’s difficult to forget Jenny’s phone number (867-5309).

In the Ipsos ASI database of learnings, we know that music in advertising can be a complex issue. Sometimes, its impact is more about presence or absence. But, for jingles and themes, we know that, when they’re relevant, they can make advertising powerful – not only in cutting through but also in driving persuasion and, often, also brand linkage.

I’m not suggesting that everyone should run out and start writing more jingles (although I personally would love it, the cheesier the better); rather, I’m suggesting that we consider how these sonic mnemonics work to build the desired attention, persuasion, whatever.

If you’ve read my blog before, you won’t be surprised to hear me banging on about relevance again (maybe I should write a jingle). But relevance, in this case can mean a lot of things, whether it’s rhyme or storyline or just a great hook whose consistent use can make the brand stand out from others as highly salient. Of course there are exceptions, content that performs well in spite of the lack of any relevance whatsoever, but there is a great deal of power in music in general, and jingles in particular, when leveraged to good effect, a la ‘Dumb Ways to Die’.

Tara Beard-Knowland (who has ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ stuck permanently in her brain) is a Director at Ipsos ASI. Follow her on Twitter @TaraatIpsosASI.


    It is one of the mysteries of advertising that the jingle
    has become so unfashionable. It makes little outings, usually in an ironic way,
    and then shyly retreats again. This company has been responsible for many
    long-running jingles (Lilt and Konica to name two) which served for many years.
    While being constantly refreshed by new versions and executions the branding
    continued to be maintained and, more importantly, built upon. In an era when
    brand-building is so important it is crazy to throw away such a valuable tool.
    Why this has happened can be answered in part by the way that music is
    procured. Rather than thinking of music as a primary part of the campaign it is
    added in at the end at the whim of third parties. They put the job out to pitch
    and license the cheapest or what they consider the most fashionable option. For
    the next campaign the same thing happens again and all continuity is lost. The
    collaboration that used to exist between composers and creatives has utterly
    disappeared to the detriment of a very powerful branding tool. Charlie Spencer,
    Creative Director, Candle Music.

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