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Jingles: The Silent Powerhouses of Advertising?


Jingles: The Silent Powerhouses of Advertising?

A key observation from our 2023 research, particularly in non-Western markets, has been the prevalence and prominence of jingles as top-scoring Distinctive Brand Assets.

Jingles were formerly popular Distinctive Brand Assets, due to their sticky “earworm” characteristics allowing the brands that employed them creativity, stand out and an opportunity to be noticed.

Why The Decline?

The decline in jingle usage can be attributed to a few reasons. Firstly, a shift in media consumption and subsequent media buys has impacted the channels where they once had the most impact. They were ideally suited to the shared viewing nature of TV, enabling them to work effectively when aired to the masses via broad-reaching media channels. Additionally, international FM/AM radio listenership has declined in recent years, and, needless to say, jingles are an ideal execution for radio ads.

Secondly, they have lost their mojo in marketing circles, in part due to the move to digital, as marketers fetishize the latest trends, whether that be big data, personalisation or NFTs. They have also lost their appeal in creative agency circles. It’s unfortunate, but a clever special OOH execution seen by a few hundred consumers has a much better chance of winning a Cannes Lion than a jingle which gets stuck in the heads of millions of category buyers. The move to digital hasn’t helped as media budgets go towards channels with limited audio capabilities such as paid search, display advertising, and “sound off” social media advertising.

Used by some of the world’s most distinctive & leading brands


Is A Comeback Possible?

Could jingles make a comeback? AV advertising, whether YouTube or other forms of online video served via your phone or TV, provides high reach for the 10-30sec AV spot, albeit via a fragmented media plan. The rise of podcast advertising and digital radio also provides an opportunity for audio ads to gain a much greater impact on the masses.

The growth of TikTok is also interesting; its “sound-on” nature of consumption provides an opportunity for audio to be more central to social media advertising. In addition, with so much focus on effectiveness in marketing circles thanks to the work of Binet & Field, Sharp, Romaniuk, Ritson et al, it feels like there is a movement “back to the basics” of marketing. Finally, marketers so often talk about impacting or even contributing to culture as part of their work, and we must ask whether any other component of advertising had as palpable an impact on popular “culture” as jingles.

Jingle All The Way

Jingles punch above their weight from a distinctiveness point of view, consistently scoring highly. From the numerous Distinctive Brand Asset studies we’ve conducted in the past 18 months, they are, on average, the highest-scoring asset type. While caution is always needed when relying on averages, along with the potential input bias, this trend persists.

This won’t be a surprise to most. We all know the power of music and its ability to drive a personal, emotional, and memorable response – this carries through to how powerful it can be in advertising. Studies have also shown the strength of music in helping with memory encoding (Neuro Insight/Thinkbox Creative Drivers of Effectiveness). To demonstrate their stickiness and strength, we tested a number of jingles in the U.K. to see how strongly they performed.

As seen via the above DBA grid*, the majority of tested jingles were top-box Hero assets, recognised by consumers and attributed to the correct brand.

The strength of the Just Eat jingle is highly evident. It’s a brilliant case study on how to use a jingle, utilising influencers as an embedding vehicle.

Haribo is another excellent example of a jingle in action. This, along with their attention-grabbing and funny creative, is sure to create some highly impactful and effective advertising. I for one would love to see the return on their advertising spend.

Calgon meanwhile shows that even the most mundane of categories can utilise jingles to stand out and drive brand linkage. While their water softener competitors might be arguing over the best type of NFT or personalisation strategy to use, Calgon are just rolling out broad-reach ad after ad with a catchy jingle which is sure to beat any other shiny tactic of the day.

Okay I’m Convinced. What Steps Should I Take?

Could a jingle be something your brand can utilise in creating standout distinctive advertising? Here are a few titbits to take on board, if hoping to create your own earworm:  

1) Comms & Media Plan Fit

Like any sonic brand asset, your media plan needs to marry with the creative. If your brand only does limited AV/TV or audio advertising, it will be very difficult to embed any type of sonic asset. While big budgets will help in embedding them, especially via a broad-reach media plan, there are lots of localised examples of smaller brands that have used radio very well to create earworms in cities all around the world.

2) Go All In

Jingles, like any priority or lead DBAs, require a commitment to the cause. If you go down the route of a jingle, make it front and centre of your creative ala Just Eat. If it’s only resigned to a sign-off at the end of creative, it will likely struggle to be remembered. Make it the hero of your advertising.  

3) Bespoke Commission

Don’t take a shortcut on production or budget. Do your research on the musician or talent who could write you a jingle that could propel your brand forward through effective advertising. Scope out the hot musicians working on jingles or indeed investigate if any pop writers would be interested in working with you. While Barry Manilow might not be free, talent such as he sure knows how to write a jingle. Manilow himself has been responsible for some of the most famous jingles in the U.S., including the iconic “I am stuck on BAND-AID cause BAND-AID’s stuck on me” for which he won a 1976 Clio Award.

4) Tagline Synergy

Most taglines underperform when it comes to distinctiveness metrics unless you’re a behemoth of a brand like Nike. More often than not they fall more into the differentiation camp in communicating meaning. If your brand is committed to a tagline, for whatever reason, it is always worth investigating if it could be turned into a jingle. This synergy could propel its use forward as both a tagline and jingle. Many jingles started their life as just a campaign line before finding fame as a jingle. One example is the Nationwide jingle which will be well known to U.S. readers.

5) Screw Subtlety

There is a lot of talk about sonic branding these days, and there are good benefits to audio marks or sonic logos when done well. However, subtle music notes are often reserved for large brands with the right touchpoints to match. It’s perfect for Netflix or other streaming providers as they are in your sitting room and play every time you pop on a new TV episode, so embedding it is much easier. Banking brands have the luxury of playing sonic via ATMs, and technology brands can chime in after you turn on your device. We often see sonic marks underperform, so be careful. If looking at the sonic route, the jingle will over-perform. 

6) The Power of Nostalgia

If your brand is lucky enough, they may have used a jingle previously that could be refreshed and resurrected. Distinctive Brand Asset research, which is what we do at Distinctive BAT, will help you understand what equity you might still have in any previously used jingle. DBA research can also uncover if there are any watchouts in terms of misattribution of old assets like jingles, or indeed understand the whitespace in the category.

7) Use Of Brand Name

If possible, get the brand name in as part of the key line. Yes, this is the equivalent of “make my logo bigger”, but if your jingle does reach anywhere near cultural zeitgeist, you are potentially seeing millions of free impressions with brand memory structures being refreshed over and over again. Even if it doesn’t impact culture, these additional brand mentions will help to improve brand linkage and ultimately advertising effectiveness.   

That’s it from us. We won’t even try breaking down what makes a good jingle a good jingle in the first place. We’ll leave that to the musical experts.

If you would like help understanding how your brand assets perform, contact us here.

*Plotted on a Distinctive Brand Asset grid, a version of which was originally developed by Jenni Romaniuk and the Ehrenberg Bass Institute

Used by some of the world’s most distinctive & leading brands