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Jingles 2.0: What makes them stick today?

Jingles 2.0: What makes them stick today? Haley Robinson
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Give Me a Break. I'm a Pepper. The Best Part of Waking Up. Stuck on Band-Aid Brand. I Wish I Were an Oscar Meyer Weiner. By now you have at least one song stuck in your head. You're welcome.

For many, the era of the jingle -- the "glory" years when you couldn't turn on the TV without hearing a brand's catchy tune -- seems distant. But the jingle is alive and well. It just looks a bit different than you might remember. In a world of new platforms, multiple screens, and a new dynamic dominant audience, there's never been a more important time than now for the brand awareness that a jingle can bring. However, the new media climate poses a few challenges that demand a new approach to the classic jingle.

Jingles should be engaging

We live in an era in which two-way social interactions with brands are not only common, but expected. And, this can work in a jingle's favor. By inviting an already captive audience to interact with and share your jingle (and maybe create versions of their own), you can develop some truly impactful relationships while also delivering a simple and memorable message. Plus, with many touchpoint opportunities, your audience can discover your jingle on Snapchat, listen to it repeatedly on Vine, play it on Instagram, or share it on Facebook. But it has to be engaging enough to compel people to listen.

Oreo demonstrates the opportunities of social media with its YouTube-hosted Wonderfilled campaign. The campaign features an original branded and catchy song (the jingle) recorded by different popular artists. User comments show a captive audience eager to interact and respond.

But Oreo didn't stop there. It evoked the power of YouTube fandom by inviting the Pentatonix (an a cappella group that found fame on the video platform) to cover the jingle.

By opening up the campaign to user engagement and by tapping into interests of their viewership, Oreo was able to creating a compelling and engaging jingle campaign.

Jingles should be multi-platform

With new screens popping up left and right, the rise of social media and fragmentation of advertising channels make spreading a catchy jingle complicated. No longer can you simply buy a decent TV or radio flight and expect your audience to hear it. Today you have to be everywhere, in different formats, on different platforms, and at different times, to succeed.

State Farm Insurance has done a good job of overcoming this challenge. From 2010-2016, it ran a multi-platform campaign that featured customers who magically summoned State Farm representatives using the "Like a Good Neighbor" jingle (you've probably seen it a hundred times).

The key to the State Farm campaign was its cross-platform efforts. Expanding beyond the classic TV buy, State Farm created a flexible campaign across several different channels. It hosted the campaign on YouTube, created a designated page on Facebook, sought relevant sponsorships like College Game Day, and even teamed up with Weezer to do a special recording of the classic jingle. These efforts were met by user-generated parodies and a growing online fandom -- not to mention wide brand recognition for the company's "magic jingle."

Jingles should embrace millennials

State Farm's attempts worked not only because it considered multiple platforms, but also because it considered its audience: millennials. This new dominant audience is a key influence that should change how we develop jingles. Millennials are dynamic, tech savvy, passionate, and overwhelmingly wary of marketing, which makes a traditional approach to jingles not only unwise, but pointless. If you want a jingle to last, it's important to tailor it to a millennial audience, especially as they continue to grow in terms of their percentage of the consumer population year over year.

When P&G thought about the jingle for Mr. Clean, it "recognized that there was a uniquely ownable and relatable campaign in the jingle that could span generations." But P&G also recognized that it needed to make a change in order to stay relevant in a market controlled by a new dominant age demographic.

"We wanted to renew the jingle for today's millennial households," says Heather Chambers, creative director at Burnett Canada, making certain to show the product "helping to make the cleaning process easier with people from all walks of life."

By tailoring a catchy tune to a targeted audience on platforms they frequent, Mr. Clean is poised to see future success without leaving the brand's legacy behind.

Jingles should be short(er)

Finally, optimal length could be one of the biggest changes that face the traditional approach to the jingle. A study conducted by Opera Mediaworks shows that long-form video is good for campaigns with calls to action, but short-form video is best for brand awareness (the main strength of jingles).

For short-form, the study concluded that "engagement rates were 60 percent higher for the six-second version of the video versus the 15-second version." This coincides with the fact that most social media platforms have limits on the length of video content. For example, YouTube suggests that ads must grab attention in the first five seconds to be successful. Therefore, jingles need to be both catchy and concise, delivering the whole message in a short amount of time or be engaging enough to compel an audience to listen to the whole message.

This poses somewhat of a problem in that some jingles need a decent amount of time to develop and retain their stickiness and to deliver their intended message. For others, the timing of the jingle is less of a problem than creating short, compelling visuals to accompany it. As of yet, I've been hard pressed to find an example a short-form, shareable jingle campaign, but if this trend continues, brands will be forced to adapt their jingles to meet this requirement or rely on grabbing attention early on to ensure full viewership.

The good news is that the jingle is still an effective tool for increasing brand awareness and improving brand affinity. But in the fast-paced, competitive, digital media world we live in, they can no longer rest on past laurels (or approaches). The brands who have found success have shifted from the traditional approach to meet the needs and desires of the times -- and meet new audiences where they are, across platforms.

Haley Robinson is a copywriter at MMI Agency in Houston, TX. She graduated magna cum laude from the Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University. When not writing, she enjoys reading science fiction and singing show tunes. ...

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Commenter: Caryn Starr-Gates

2016, August 08

Nice article! I never really thought jingles had disappeared but you showed that they had indeed been muted -- and have come back in new ways to appeal to new audiences. Thanks.