We’ve all been there – in the supermarket or driving the car, peacefully minding our own business, when – BANG! – out (or maybe that should be, in) it pops. That whistle followed by “I’m lovin’ it”, or bellowing “Go Compare!”, or whispering “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat”.
We try to catch ourselves but it’s too late. It’s as if our brains have been rendered powerless and our souls have given up the ghost. The ad men have won. The jingles are victorious.
Jingles have been around since the early days of radio in the 1920s, and since then they’ve become an ingrained part of the everyday, cultural psyche. Sometimes it’s as if we can’t help ourselves and there’s a little jingle gremlin gnawing away at our brain, rendering us impossible to resist.
But advertisers are canny fellows and know what they’re doing. Their aim is to make their jingle as catchy and memorable – even as irritating and annoying – as possible. In other words, there is no escape. Resistance is futile. Once the jingle’s embedded in your brain, you’re not getting it out. And that, to a great extent, is true.
Exactly why jingles work as effectively as they do is still something of a mystery that continues to elude scientists and advertisers. There are, however, certain suppositions and ideas about why they can work so well.
The Theory Of The Earworm
Or, as the German’s call them, “ohrwurm”. Or Song Stuck Syndrome. And Repetuneitis. Or Jukebox Virus. Or Melodymania. Whatever you call them, earworms are those brief, 15-30 second musical snippets that are embedded in your brain and you can’t shake no matter how hard you try.
We’re still unsure about what causes them – neural circuits that identify melody, a part of the brain adapted to verbal and musical repetition, the inner ear, the inner voice – but it’s acknowledged that there are certain musical phrases, rhythms and patterns that cause an excitable, abnormal reaction to the brain.
Short And Sweet With A Hook
The best jingles rely on three things – shortness, repetition, and rhyme. In essence, they’re a way of regressing us back to our childhood and designed to be as catchy as nursery rhymes.
The shorter and simpler and punchier the jingle is, the more memorable it will be. And of course, the more you hear it the more it will stick in your mind.
“Snap, crackle, pop”, “P-p-p-pick up a penguin”, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” – brief, alliterative, repetitious, and ultimately very effective. And the thing about jingles is that they can be company names, telephone numbers or slogans.
Songs, which nowadays just as readily go with a radio or TV ad campaign, also contain these easy-to-remember “hook” characteristics.
In fact, how often have you seen a product on the supermarket shelves and inclined to hum its tune or say its slogan? (In the shampoo section? Because you’re worth it. Need toilet rolls? Go for the ones that are soft, strong and very, very long.)
Psychologists and neurologists have carried out studies that show effects of music on the brain create a strong emotional connection to the listener that renders it very difficult to forget.
The Pick Of The Crop
Here are some of the most memorable jingles of recent times. Notice that they tend to be used in something called “DRTV” advertising, or direct response television.
- Go Compare
- P-p-p-Pick up a penguin
- Just one Cornetto…
- I feel like Chicken Tonight
- We Buy Any Car Dot Com
- McDonald’s: I’m Lovin’ It
- Do the Shake ‘n Vac and Put the Freshness Back
- A Mars a Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play
If some of these advertisers asked for direct responses to their television, they’d probably get a mixed response, but there’s no questioning how influential and vital a good jingle can be.
What jingles have had an impact on you over the years?