Jingle, Jingle, Jingle, You Will Hear Those Ad Dollars Ring

There’s so many deals out there today
Some good, some bad, some say, “No way!”
But we’ve got a deal that deserves a look
It’s a deal you can feel in your pocketbook
In your pocketbooooooook!

-local car dealership commercial, late 80’s

I’m sure that at some point in your life, you’ve encountered a commercial such as this – some local-yokel company such as a car dealership attempts to infiltrate your mindset with a short tune that is somehow good enough to stick with you.  Like this tune has for me for the past fifteen years.  These are the fruits of the labor known as the jingle.

You probably know what a jingle is, so I won’t define it for you.  This week I’m going to take a look at the evolution of the jingle from the origins of mass communication into the present day.  We’ll start in the 30’s, before television was mainstream and radio was the accepted medium for broadcasting.  Here’s an audio clip from a 3o’s Pepsi advertisement (and another one from the 60’s):

These pieces of music are remarkably simple, but they do what a jingle should.  The melody is pleasant enough to become embodied in the listener’s brain, and it conveys the benefits of the product (twelve ounces of soda, only five cents).  Once moving image was added to sound, however, we were introduced to some of the most iconic jingles in television history, that to this day have remained in our national memory:

This leads us to the question – what is the science behind a great jingle?  Here’s what I feel:

1. It needs to be short.

2. It needs to have a few key words to integrate into a catch-phrase.

3. It combines words with music to create a multi-sensory mnemonic device that communicates a brand to a consumer in an unique way.

Sandra L. Calvert and Maureen Tart wrote in a 1993 issue of Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, “Songs present content in a form that may be easily stored, rehearsed, and retrieved from memory…Because vocal music places multiple constraints on memory, songs may assist verbatim recall more than does a verbal presentation.”¹  Although an advertiser cannot describe the full essence of a brand in a five-second jingle, it’s an incredibly valid piece of brand identity that ensures a place in the consumer’s knowledge for an extended period of time.  Sometimes it’s more practical than simple spoken text.  In turn, when the consumer has to make a product decision, he/she will form positive brand associations about a certain product because of the fun little tune they heard on a commercial, and will be inclined to try the product.

As commercials such as those shown above were prevalent throughout the 60’s, the 70’s brought a new kind of advertisement.  The jingle became the commercial itself.  Everyone burst into song.  It was some parts wonderful, and more parts ridiculous.

I actually like the Subway commercial – it has some hints of Joe Cocker.  Otherwise, I have no idea what agencies were thinking around this time.  Sure, it glorifies the brand and stresses the positive aspects of taking in the experience, but if most brands were taking the above approach, I wonder how many people actually connected with the advertisements.  The counterculture probably had a field day back then making fun of that stuff.

The 80’s reflected pretty much the same style, so let’s move into the 90’s.  The jingles of this era seemed to revert back to the original approach of K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid), but refrained from being antiquated – the jingle was presented as something that was as current as ever through the use of contemporary music styles.

This practice continued into the new millennium…

…and has continued into the 2010’s.

Before I say goodbye this week, I just want to talk about the Cellino & Barnes ad for a second.  This is a New York-based personal injury law firm.  It might seem unusual for a law firm to have a jingle, considering the serious tone their ads usually project.  However, what we can learn from their ad is that a catchy jingle can be used as a sentiment-neutral marketing technique to develop consumer awareness.  This technique, combined with the ad’s placement during all hours of daytime television, have ensured top-of-mind awareness for the firm, and as the firm has offices in the New York metropolitan area, Rochester, Buffalo, and Los Angeles, I would say it has contributed to the firm’s success.

What are your favorite jingles ever?  What are your least favorite jingles ever?  Any local ones you like?  Any that drive you nuts?  Drop me a line and let me know.

‘Bye for now!

¹Calvert, Sandra L. & Tart, Maureen. (1993). Song Versus Verbal Forms for Very-Long-Term,
Long-Term, and Short-Term Verbatim Recall. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 14,
245-260.  Taken from Mark Dahl’s essay “Why Jingles Improve Advertising Results”, http://www.accountablemarketing.com/uploads/Why_Jingles_Improve_Advertising_Results.pdf.


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