Sunday, April 12, 2009

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Music Branding

A few weeks ago, SOUNDS LIKE BRANDING™ published the results of a survey of 70 global brands concerning their views about music as a branding strategy. Key findings:

97% think music can strengthen their brand.
76% use music actively in their marketing.
68% consider music to be an important tool for building a consistent and unique brand.

But 71% spend 5% or less of their marketing budget on music.

Why so little if they believe music is a good branding tool? The primary reason, according to 41% of respondents, is difficulty in measuring return on investment.

Unfortunately, music is used in so many different ways, there is no "one size fits all" measure of effectiveness.

Percentage of respondents using music in these formats:

TV commercials 20%
Websites 16%
Commercial locations 13%
Artist sponsorships/collaborations 12%
Music events 11%
Radio ads 10%
Music products 10%
Sonic branding 6%
Other 1%

A topic not covered in the report, but which I think is relevant to any discussion of music as a branding strategy, is how long the music will be called upon to deliver a brand association.

I want to suggest four types of music branding tactics, with their corresponding timeframes:

1. Sonic branding is the most long-lived, presumably for the life of the company. Typically companies commission a unique sound or song as a form of corporate identification.

2. Next in permanence is the jingle. Generally the intent is to create a sonic tagline which will be used for at least a year and often as long as a decade or more. Here are some well-known jingles. And this list ranks the top 30, with introduction dates included.

3. Sponsorships often run on a year-by-year basis, although they can be shorter (perhaps the length of a tour or promotion) or longer (extending over several years). Sponsorships can be quite elaborate, with a company entering into a relationship with an artist/band that extends through multiple presentations and platforms. The sponsorship may involve music for a website, for multiple commercials, and with artists appearing at events. This article mentions a number of sponsorship deals with bands.

4. Song use is generally short-term, often for just one commercial. A song may be chosen to augment a specific concept rather than reflecting a more comprehensive corporate image. Sometimes the songs are classic, but more often than not, they are momentarily popular and are forgotten as soon as the ads disappear. A good resource for the latest in music and advertising is Advertising Age's Songs For Soap blog.

The purpose of the above list is to show that music as a branding strategy can be as simple as picking the right song for an ad running only once, or as complex as finding the right sound to be incorporated into corporate branding for decades.

The "try today and gone tomorrow" scenario allows for experimentation. The "tie your corporate history to a sound" scenario should involve far more deliberation.

Suzanne Lainson

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