One thing is certain. One component that’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to advertising is the music. Music is emotion in the form of sound. The right piece of music can carry the ad or magnify its impact. So, just how important is it?
Brands are created out of stories. Brands commence with the product or the service but how people perceive and resonate with them are constructed out of stories : their source, who the owners are, the mission and vision. And these can be communicated in plenty of ways. A film is one medium and of course, soundtrack occupies prime importance. So, music becomes incredibly impactful when it’s an element of the message that helps build the brand.
It doesn’t change the narrative of the ad, but it could change its meaning. Music is a sheer emotional medium. It probably has little meaning, save for the emotional response it invokes. A story on the other hand has to make sense and have a structure. In music, the tune has a connect to your heart and its something you feel at a deeper level.
As James Stephens says, “what the heart feels today the head will know tomorrow”. Simply put, we imbibe information through the heart- and that’s right where music pierces us. That’s why it’s so compelling.
Brands have successfully used music to drive messages and inspire a change in consumer behavior. Take for instance the “Da Da Ding” campaign by Nike. In July 2016, Weiden and Kennedy kicked off its Nike Just Do It campaign, not with a commercial but with a music- video- turned- cult- favourite Da Da Ding, set in India. Directed by French director Francois Rousselet and set to upbeat music by Gener8ion, featuring American rapper Gizzle, it is a celebration of India’s female athletes across football, running, training, basketball and cricket.
The reason why Da Da Ding worked so well, was because there was already a story : a clarion call to women to pursue their sporty dreams. But more importantly, the story had a rhythm to it. And the music captured that rhythm and enhanced it.
Another commercial that was immensely successful was the the Levi’s® “Circles” ad released in 2017. Named by YouTube as one of the ten most watched ads of 2017, it was set to the song “Makeba” by artist Jain. The enticing pop beat and African rhythms accentuated by sprightly vocals, was so catchy, that it remained the top Shazamed ad for many weeks running in the UK.
Levi’s® has always been a brand that celebrates unity, and with “Circles”, it sent out a message of inclusivity and diversity through dance that traverses countries and cultures. The thing is Levi’s® is a trendsetter. Whatever song it uses, becomes stylish. The brand has always invested in music and used it as an advantage to make style statements.
Many times it’s hard to get a client to invest in music for the ad spot. It’s because most of them view communication as a science more than art. They are of the opinion that there should be a specific formula that would guarantee results. And you can tell them that based on your experience, it would work but you can’t give them ROI figures in advances. So, even if the track is likely to be a hit, it is certainly not a soft sell where a lot of clients are concerned.
So, how important is music to brands? While I’d like to say that it’s the most important thing, this may not be the relevant answer. There’s a danger in developing an identifiable sonic identity. Simply because, there is a clash between identifying the brand and being surprised by it. For instance, the Coca Cola mnemonic is recognizable but some would say it suffers from a lack of surprise value.
So, how do brands look at a piece of music and know that it will be magic? It needs to answer two questions : Is it the right culture fit? and Is it daring enough? The piece has to tap into people’s culture, how they live and behave. And it should say something, original and novel, something unexpected. Like Johnny Depp said, “Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t.” If done in the right spirit, music can possibly add magic to brands more than all the words in the world.