If, as the tune says, "Music" writes the songs that make the whole world sing, then advertising copywriters pen the songs that make the whole world buy.
Few mnemonic devices are as effective as music at delivering a customer-focused message, experts say, which is also why so many businesses use songs in advertising. Commonly called jingles, a good one combines music and clever lyrics to communicate the name of a business, the customer benefits it provides and the business's phone number — all in about 15 seconds. And if it's particularly effective, that song will bury itself into a listener's brain for easy recall over the long term, which is perfect for businesses promoting their phone numbers, like pizzerias.
"We work to get a phone number that reflects the (alliteration) in the jingle," said Shawn Timony, marketing manager for 32-unit Topper's Pizza in Sudbury, Ontario. "In some instances,
we've even paid to get the phone number (310-71-71) for a store we're opening."
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Few advertisements make longer-lasting impressions than jingles.
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A jingle might be clever or cute, but ultimately it must represent the business attractively to and draw customers in.
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Though a good jingle isn't inexpensive, when used effectively in a radio campaign, it can be a cost-effective investment in your business.
Dwayne Boudreau agreed, calling a jingle "critical" to Greco Pizza's marketing campaign.
"It's our lifeline because it not only resonates with consumers, it tells them how to contact us, said Boudreau, director of marketing for Greco in Truro, Nova Scotia. The company's phone number of choice is 310-30-30. "That's really important in pizza delivery, because the majority of our customers are phoning their orders in."
Pizza companies, more than any other, want their phone numbers sung, according to George Axon, a partner in Axon Branding in Mississauga, Ontario. Music adds personality to a marketing message and presents it to listeners appealingly.
"A good jingle has got to be conversational," Axon said. "When it's done right, it comes off like telling a friend, 'Why don't you order this pizza?' It's got to create the right feeling."
Short, but not simple
Though they last only a handful of seconds, great jingles take hours to create. The lyrics must be crafted into a message that is clear, concise and interesting enough to catch listeners' ears. Stuart Goldberg, an Axon partner in Detroit, said a good jingle doesn't just get a business noticed, it presents that business in a favorable light. Companies like his, therefore, spend time interviewing clients in detail to understand the message they want to convey about their businesses.
"We start with the lyric, which is the capsule of everything they want to say about themselves; we want to capture their nature in a simple phrase," said Goldberg. "A lot of jingles are simply inappropriate because they started with music that came off the shelf. Then they write lyrics to fit the music, which is the opposite way to do it."
As clever as the end product may be, it's worth nothing, said Kamron Karington, if it doesn't answer every customer's basic question: "What's in it for me?"
"You always want to think from your customers' standpoint and ask, 'What are they going to be receptive to?'" said Karington, a marketing consultant in Las Vegas. "Customers are inanimate blobs welded to their couches or welded to their car seats, and singing about what you want is not going to get them to take action. You've got to dangle a worm in front of them that interests them. A good jingle is that worm."
Good bang for the buck
Several years ago, when Karington owned four pizzerias, he spent $6,000 on a jingle played frequently on the radio and always on his message-on-hold system. Compared to
print and direct-mail campaigns, the investment in the jingle wasn't that costly. But buying radio time did add up to $54,000 in the last year before he sold his company.
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That kind of exposure still is a good investment, said Axon, because it allows companies like Karington's to do two things: differentiate themselves from "mom and pop" independents, and have ads that sound as professional as big chain operations'.
"The great efficiency of getting a jingle is anyone can sound on the radio as impressive as anyone else," he said. "When you talk about how to get the most bang for the buck in advertising, songs (played on the radio) really work."
That's especially true when compared to TV advertising, a playing field traditionally dominated by big chains with deep marketing budgets, Goldberg said. Smaller companies simply can't afford comparably slick, well-produced ads or the frequency of impressions required to make a lasting impression on TV.
"Let's face it: You're never going to look as good as a big company on TV because they have so much more money to spend," he said. "But since radio is so economical, if you do it right, you can sound as big and professional as Pizza Hut, but on a smaller budget."
Karington said one key to great radio advertising is knowing to buy "first out or last in" spots. "At a commercial break, radio stations like to go from music and into music where possible. That means if a commercial has a jingle, the station will end with music and go into that commercial because it also has music. The same goes for having the last commercial (with music) going back into music."
Karington added that professionally produced commercials with jingles tend to get the "first out" spot simply because they sound better to listeners when arranged that way. And if you're buying radio spots, know you can push to get "first out" or "last in" placement, he said.
Greco's Boudreau recommended spending smartly with radio advertisements by purchasing multiple, shorter-length spots where possible. Multiple impressions spread over a greater period of time can increase the chances more people will hear the message.
"We've done a bunch of different versions of our song, depending on what ad we're creating," Boudreau said. "We've got one that's 7 seconds, another that's 3 seconds, as well as a 15 and a 30. We can use those intermittently, depending on the campaign we're running and what we're trying to achieve."
Fear of saturation?
Can a jingle ever be played so much that customers don't notice it anymore? No one interviewed believed that to be the case, and both Goldberg and Axon warned against messing with an easily identifiable message because you suspect it's dated. "Over time, that's really
become part of your brand. So it's risky to change it," Axon said.
A good jingle has got to be conversational. When it's done right, it comes off like telling a friend, 'Why don't you order this pizza?' It's got to create the right feeling.
— George Axon,
Boudreau said changing it creates the risk that people won't recognize it at first, and the investment in "retraining" customers to learn a new jingle can be significant.
"We feel lucky in that what was created for us is still current," he said of the company's two-decade-old jingle. "It was done in a way that's almost timeless."
Karington said many advertisers think they need to change their ads because their competitors are. If the jingle is a good one and it "explains your unique selling proposition," there's probably little room for improvement.
"I do know that advertisers get sick of hearing their advertising long before the public does," he said. "They may say, 'I'm sick of that. We need to change that.' But the fact is the customer isn't as captivated and drawn into your advertising as much as you think they are. You're just hearing it all the time, and you get tired of it."