Music is powerful. It speaks to our emotions in a way that no other art form can. Even though 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual, music speaks to us on a deeper level.
The prioritization of visual data is part of why music is so powerful and so effective. It slips past the defenses of the conscious mind and speaks to us on a more instinctual level.
To help you better understand what’s going on, we’re going to delve into the science of music in advertising and the role it plays in advertising.
The Science Of Music And Its Psychological Effects
People are hard-wired to respond to music and sound. Certain intervals common to Western music can even be heard in the cry of newborn babies.
Music also works on more parts of the brain than any other sense. That’s why it’s effective in helping to treat nervous disorders. Parts of the brain that process speech may be impaired but can be circumnavigated using other neural areas. You can listen to some Rock Music to stimulate your mind and creativity. Plenty of Rock Celebrities use music as an outlet for stress.
Consider melodic intonation therapy, which is similar to how people suffering from speech impediments were taught to sing certain phrases.
Hearing is actually developed before sight when we’re still in the womb. It connects us to an earlier, more primal part of ourselves. That’s part of how the science of music is so powerful for advertisers and artists in general.
Music Impacts Emotion And Memory
Music is often intimately tied to certain times and places of our lives. Recent studies have shown that the same neurological centers that process music are responsible for processing memories and emotions.
This same principle can be applied to advertising, both positively and negatively.
Consider another recent study on 1,000 Australian consumers. The study finds that music can produce very strong emotional results. The emotions the create within the listener, however, vary wildly.
Certain musical aspects are nearly universally true, though. Strings playing staccato notes in a major key elicit a positive response in 87% of listeners, for instance. 83% of listeners associate shifting from a major key to a minor key to create a sense of sadness.
90% of listeners associate the sound of acoustic guitar with sophistication, mellowness, and caring. These associations can be played upon by advertisers.
Music Tells A Story
People are overwhelmingly driven by narrative. The ability to impose meaning over seemingly unconnected data is part of what makes us human. Narrative is becoming increasingly important, as well, as the world continues to become more complicated and incomprehensible.
Music in advertising is exponentially more memorable and impactful when it’s used to drive the plot of an advertisement. This could be through a variety of musical factors, like tempo or harmony.
Think back on Sony’s influential bouncing ball commercial from 2005. The commercial, depicting 250,000 colorful rubber balls bouncing downhill in San Francisco, was made to advertise Sony’s new HD TVs.
The mellow gracefulness of Jose Gonzales’ “Heartbeats” makes for an elegant gentility, giving the video an emotional core. It was also the perfect sonic accompaniment to match the commercial’s slow-motion special effects.
Or consider the Volkswagen Jetta commercial from 2000. In the commercial, a young couple drives through a rainy city. They pop a cassette into the tape player, and the whole world seems to fall into stride with the electronic rhythms.
The Volkswagen Jetta ad accomplishes two results at the same time. On one hand, it illustrates Volkswagen as a hip company, in tune with the tastes of the time. Simultaneously, it seems to impose a sense of order over a chaotic world.
If a company uses an existing song or a recognizable artist, they can subconsciously link their brand to any associations that artist might have. Consider the “Start Me Up” ad by Microsoft for Windows 95 featuring the iconic single by The Rolling Stones.
The Rolling Stones are practically synonymous with rock ‘n roll. It’s an impressive feat to have a software platform associated with revolution, hipness, and edginess. It’s a clever trick that’s been pulled off many times since Microsoft paved the way in the mid-90s.
An artist doesn’t even have to be particularly well-known for these associations to take place. Think about The Gap using “Little Drummer Boy” by Minnesota indie rock outfit Low. How else could The Gap, who are synonymous with corporate fashion, reach the hearts and minds of underground rock lovers while simultaneously giving their brand an artsy and almost religious edge? Some of these ‘commercial’ songs are popular on karaoke software as well.
Artist associations can even be effective with brand new creations. Think about McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign from 2003. McDonald’s tapped The Neptunes and Justin Timberlake to compose a brand new single for their advertising campaign.
It’s a brilliant example of corporate and artistic synergy. McDonald’s managed to present themselves as cutting edge and with it while also gaining the affection of a whole new younger, hipper generation.
The “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign was also prescient in other ways. It’s an early example of multi-platform advertising. They used the slogan for everything from their billboards to their written advertising.
That’s one of the beauties of the science of music in advertising and how it relates to advertising. You’re not restricted to just using jingles or adding soundtracks to your commercials. You can use music to make your other branding more memorable, more relatable, and more human.
Music has been moving humanity for our entire existence. It rocks us to sleep when we’re in the cradle. It soothes our jangled nerves in adulthood.
As advertisers, marketers, and business owners, we can use these things to our advantage. And make the world a more tuneful, harmonious place at the same time.