The Value Of Jingles

In 1962, Mortein released its seminal “Louie The Fly” advertising campaign. This was not the public’s first exposure to the product, as the brand had already existed for several years, and had even been marketed through television. Moreover, it was not even the first appearance of its icon, as the character had been conceived of 5 years earlier. It was however the first time that Mortein’s melody was heard by public ears, and the first time the accompanying lyrics were sung. Though the ad itself may seem fairly innocuous in hindsight, its not an understatement to say that status of Mortein as a household name is entirely contingent upon this jingle. To illustrate my point, variations of this melody are still heard in Mortein’s advertising campaigns over 55 years after its initial iteration. 

This phenomenon has been demonstrated to great effect in far more companies. McDonalds, Vegemite, Dominos and Coca-Cola are just some of the brands that have employed jingles to extraordinary effect. But what is it about jingles that make them work so well as a cognitive adhesive? Why are they so successful in developing brand recognition for their associated products? Today, were going to explore the topic of why jingles work.

Matching The Music

When being taught the alphabet, students aren’t handed a prosaic list of 26 characters and forced to learn through wrote memorisation. We were all instead taught the alphabet through what is essentially a nursery rhyme. This teaching is so ingrained in us, that most adults will still read the alphabet as a melody rather than as a static list. The point that I am trying to make is that music holds in the subconscious in a way that words alone simply can’t. This is a fact so evident to marketers that virtually every advertisement is punctuated with some form of music.

For most ads, the music that is used tends to have been previously orchestrated by some band or well-known composer. It is music that the viewer is familiar with. Now this approach has its advantages. For one, viewers already have an emotional connection to the music if it is well known, which enables advertisers to immediately trigger an emotional response (a phenomenon known as priming). Secondly, music that is composed by a famous artist provides the opportunity for cross promotion. Music of this kind is also immediately recognisable, which endows the ads with some sense of legitimacy merely by virtue of association. But even in the face of these advantages, there are still marketers who instead opt for the use of jingles within their work. Why?

One important reason is that longer form pieces aren’t built for ads. Ads have a set length they have to contend with. As such, if famous music used, it needs to be truncated in such a way as to excerpt the most relevant parts. This de-contextualisation does rob the music, and by extension the ad, of some of its ability for emotional priming. Jingles by contrast are built from the ground up with the time constraints in mind. As such, they are tailor-made to suit the needs of the ad, as the peaks and troughs in the melody can be constructed in such a way as to perfectly overlay onto their visual corollaries.

Another issue is that of memory. When music is not constructed specifically for the product, you run the risk of viewers remembering just the music.  For instance, if I were to launch a Vegemite campaign that was attached with a Beatles song, there is a chance this song imbeds itself in the viewers head. But then where are you exactly? If the tune gets caught in the consumers mind, then you have just exposed them to a popular piece of music that, when isolated, is irrelevant to the product. Alternatively, if we instead take the example of the original line of Vegemite ads, the musical number they used had lyrics about the product itself. As such, if the tune got caught in the viewer’s head, it would be of a piece of music that actually told them about the product.


Perhaps the most empirical factor involved in the success of jingles is the frequency to which they are heard. Unless someone possess and eidetic memory, they are on the whole incapable of remembering a piece of music after a single exposure. People’s recall of music is largely contingent upon the number of times in which they hear it, or to put it differently; there is a frequency-memory relationship when it comes to music. As such, jingles fit into the architecture of advertising almost immediately. Advertising (when done intelligently) bombards consumers with the same advertisements again and again and again. It itself works on the frequency-memory relationship, regardless of whether or not it possesses a jingle. Therefore, ads that possess a jingle have an extra hook over ads that don’t.


Our understanding of the mind is, to put it mildly, incomplete. Moreover, how this understanding fits into world of marketing is a topic that is wrought with even more uncertainty. Though even if all our scientific theories of cognition are opaque, certain observations remain self-evident.  And if there is one observation in the field of marketing psychology that has been proved beyond all doubt, it’s that music is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and that jingles work.

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