Heart Beats: Music and its Power in Marketing

Popular culture is often our first introduction to music we may have otherwise missed. An Apple commercial introduced me to “Walkie-Talkie Man.” I first heard The Killer’s “When You Were Young” playing Guitar Hero. The movie Reservoir Dogs gave me George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag” (and Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”). And a Volkswagen commercial introduced me to the wonderful and talented Nick Drake.

In the VW commercial, four friends drive an open convertible down an otherwise empty road at night. A woman in the backseat stares, transfixed, at the giant, full moon; her male companion uses the moment to steal a glance toward her. As they continue to wind their way through the countryside, no one says a word because they don’t have to; the peace of the moment is understood. Finally, they arrive at their destination, a semi-rowdy house party. The driver stops the car and turns to the passengers; they all glance toward one another. The scene briefly fades to black, then fades in as the car moves on, winding along the empty road illuminated by the full moon.

The commercial is perfectly soundtracked by the Nick Drake song “Pink Moon,” which helps it capture the weird feeling of adventure and tranquility that exists at certain points in a person’s life. I have since dived in to all three Nick Drake albums and learned about his tragically short life and career. But, I can’t help it, when I hear “Pink Moon” I still think about those 20-somethings and their lovely moon-lit drive.

There’s something about music and its ability to indelibly link a tune to a specific memory and experience. It’s why you can hear an old favorite and still sing along to every word. You just begin to feel better when your brain is triggered by the tune. It’s the exact reason some people look forward to holiday music starting up after Thanksgiving. 

All kinds of media have recognized this ability of music and used it to great effect. Marketing efforts are no exception.

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Photo Credit: TheFifthDigit

If anything, music is more important to marketing efforts than ever before, because people are watching more streaming video. According to a Wordstream list:

  • More than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube each day
  • 82 percent of Twitter users utilize the platform to watch video content
  • 45 percent of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week
  • More video content is uploaded in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years
  • 87 percent of online marketers use video content

Yes, all those videos mean there is a lot of online competition for views. Which is why some marketing campaigns are making clever use of the format by creating long-form videos for online consumption that can be edited down to commercial length for broadcast.

Probably the best recent example is an ad for Apple’s HomePod titled “Welcome Home.” In the ad, a woman comes home from what is clearly a rough, long day at work. She sadly asks Siri, “Play me something I’d like” and flops on her couch. As the song “Til It's Over” by Anderson .Paak plays she starts to unconsciously sway, and her movement causes her table to stretch. Soon she’s up and dancing, and her every gesture, hip bump, and step cause her apartment to twist and expand in inventive and colorful ways.

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Photo Credit: NSS Magazine

Directed by Spike Jonze (a music video and film director who has previously used dance in another very effective long-form ad, this one for KENZO World perfume), the video has more than 14 million views on YouTube. The ad is effective in a multitude of ways but, from a marketing perspective, it works on a couple of levels: you are never in doubt that it is an ad for a HomePod (which is where the KENZO spot falls short), and it also doubles as a subtle ad for Apple’s music service.

As both the Apple and VW examples illustrate, a song or tune doesn’t have to be well-known to be effective. In fact, it may often be better to collaborate with a local, regional, or unknown artist. First, the licensing costs less; second, since it’s likely a good song, it has the potential to break big; and third, it may be your exposure that helps it break out.

What the song does have to do is work with the visuals to create a cohesive message. You may walk away from the Apple spot remembering the innovative look, but the song is absolutely essential to creating those visuals (and pretty great on its own). And, while “Pink Moon” is certainly the star of the VW spot, the laconic drive is essential to its success.

The fact is that a thoughtful collaboration can be beneficial to both brand and musical artists – in that both parties can attract new fans.

Nielsen recently reviewed more than 600 television advertisements, the vast majority of which (more than 500) included music. The study found that the ads featuring music performed better across four key metrics – creativity, empathy, emotive power, and information power – than those that didn’t.

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Photo Credit: projectcasting.com

“It depends on the message you want to get across. Popular songs, for example, are the most effective at invoking some kind of emotional response. But, while pop songs deliver emotive power, other genres are better suited for price and promotional-based ads that are trying to get information across to audiences. In fact, the study found that generic background music helps improve information power. Advertiser jingles help make the brand seem in touch, but they don’t generate as much empathy as other forms of music,” said Julanne Schiffer, Senior Vice President of Insights and Analytics at Nielsen Entertainment.

As for the message, music that is played in the major key delivers a happy, upbeat tone. Music that is in a minor key is usually a downer, but it can be effective to switch between major and minor tones to evoke a sentimental feeling.

The great thing about developing a successful musical collaboration – one where a song becomes connected to your brand – is that the music can be carried forward to all of your marketing efforts. The music can play in the background of your live events or as an introduction to a keynote speaker. The music can become as much a part of your brand as the rest of your messaging.  

For tips on integrating music into your marketing and live events, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.

sofia krsmanovic