Jingles, Earworms, and Marketing Magic

Bob Dumouchel
jingles for business

Have you ever had a jingle stuck in your head? Well, you are not alone because it happens to everyone. Jingles have the amazing power to live in our heads for days and can come back with just a few notes of music. In the Advertising jingles have been performing their magic for decades. In Plumbing, the most famous and longest lived is the Roto-Rooter jingle. This was first used in 1954 and is still in use today. According to Roto-Rooter their jingle is the oldest continuously-used jingle in advertising history, and it turns 66 this year. Talk about a strong ROI!

The Goal

The goal of advertising is to create brand recognition and recall at the point of want. The goal of a jingle is to create an earworm that makes the brand unforgettable and connects it to the value the business delivers to the market. Businesses use many different tools to make this happen and jingles are one of the most powerful. The change from conventional to digital changed lots of things but not the power of jingles. Like all forms of advertising, jingles have strengths and weaknesses depending on the quality.  

What is a Jingle?     

This is a great question, and to explore this we called experts that have been creating jingles and earworms for over 30 years. These are our friends Bill and Miriam Millikin over at Creative Mills in Cincinnati. Bill and Miriam are true experts in music branding, specifically jingles, and we have worked with them since 2008, but their jingle history goes back to the early 1980s. Bill told me that the goal of an advertising jingle is to create an earworm that causes brand recognition and recall. I thought that was fun because I had just written those words before I called. Bill explained to me that jingles are a marriage of words and music. 

Can Great Jingles be produced consistently?  

The short answer is Yes, but only some people can do this, like song writers that can produce hit after hit by applying a methodology crafted over years. There are jingle writers that can do the same thing. The key to getting there is, you guessed it, experience. Jingles ultimately get to a set up and hook, aka earworm. Experience is what makes the navigation of that process possible. This does not exclude one-hit wonders but it’s what advertising requires. Reaching this level requires experience, talent, and experience. My repeat of the word experience is no mistake. I am just making a point. As Bill, Miriam, and I discussed this topic it became clear to me that experience is the big difference.  

The Power of Music

Explaining the power of music is well above my paygrade but recognizing its power is not. Music is an emotional experience and it modifies how we perceive visual and textual content. Building a brand is all about building recall at the point of want. If you can connect that to music the recall of the message will be more emotional and emotions are the key to sales. This is why it is much better to connect to the want than the need. Need does not a sale make. Sales happen when the need morphs into a want because want is what people act on.      

Reach and Frequency

While there is little doubt that jingles are an artform and they do work, the perfect jingle without good reach and frequency is a wasted investment. If you are unfamiliar with these terms the reach is the number of people you reach with your jingle and the frequency is how many times you touch them over a time period. For a jingle to do its magic you need to find the right balance to these two factors. If you have a budget for 10,000 touches are you better off with 2,000 people touched 5 times instead of 10,000 people touched once. The answer to this varies but in most cases frequency wins. The response rate will improve with multiple touches but it is a balancing act. As a starting point, we recommend going for a frequency of 3 touches per week with a tight local market target. It is better to dominate your locale than it is to reach a huge metro with no frequency.  

Additional Value

A jingle is a short story delivered with a hook blended together with music giving it tone and tempo. This can be a great assist when you develop content in other forms. The story, what Bill at Creative Mills calls ‘the setup’, is the path to the hook. The hook in our world is the headline.The creative process that results in a jingle can be reused many times over in website content, email, and many other forms. 

Is this right for Your Business 

This is the question we are trying to help you answer. Assuming your business is mature enough to get your investment out of the jingle, we find this to be a good thing to consider. If you are in the very early stages of building your business, all your budget needs to go to direct response instead. If you have reached the point where you are investing in brand building then a jingle can be a great investment. Just remember you need the reach and frequency to get the value from the creative work. 

Thank You!

We would like to thank Bill and Miriam Millikin from Creative Mills for their technical consultation on this article. They shared their years of experience in jingle development which we combined with our expertise in placement for reach and frequency.