Music has played a vital role in revitalising brands through the last decade and well into 2013. It has launched careers, made big profits and changed the way we view a brand, it’s likely that when you hear a song you associate it with more than just a memory but also a product or advertisement.
Back in 1999 with Flat Eric, the strange yellow puppet bopping in the passenger seat of a car with his human buddy. It seemed pointless but it made Levi’s Sta-Prest jeans sell in the thousands and the song ‘Flat Beat’ by Mr Oizo reached #1 in the UK. Although jingles are still on the radar for example Toys ‘R’ Us remain loyal to its ‘Magical Place’ jingle (which still takes me back to being 5 years old and choosing my first ‘Tiny Tears’ doll), but the move into song has steadily grown into a big business.
The most notable ad since Flat Eric has to be Cadbury’s ‘a glass and a half full of joy’ debuting in August 2007. Cadbury’s had fallen on hard times receiving negative press for a number of issues so they required something pretty spectacular to regain its trusted, positive image and increase sales. (I’m sure you can guess the ad but just in case you can’t take a look here). The song used; ‘In the Air Tonight’ charted at #2 in 1981 and showcased an exceptional build up leading to the infamous Phil Collins drum solo that had people everywhere air drumming in their car, down the street and at their desk. Cadbury’s took a risk; through channelling the joy many felt whilst successfully hitting the beat at the right time they invested in a whopping £6.2 million campaign. Knowing that Phil Collins sat at a drum kit wasn’t quite enough they created a gorilla that took 3 months to make to replace him. No one is quite sure why a gorilla was used but the result was astronomical.
The song was revitalised and brought Phil Collins back into the limelight which led to a new album and TV career special, plus the single charted at #14 some 26 years after its
debut. Cadbury’s saw an incredible increase in sales and media chatter, which was largely positive. The strapline didn’t quite take off but it didn’t matter as the ad remains as popular now as it did 7 years ago.
2007 + The Next Decade in Advertising Trends
The years since the Cadbury’s ad debut saw many other brands follow suit but with a slight twist. Instead of using the original recordings they hired little known artists to rework popular songs for little money on the premise of nationwide exposure. For the most part it was a successful partnership.
We harp on about the success of John Lewis ads frequently but it really is something to admire.
After some previously poor Christmas sales, John Lewis wanted to demolish the perception of being a predominantly middle class department store that sits slightly higher in product prices to Debenhams and even House of Fraser. Instead they wanted to attract a new consumer market through their 2009 campaign that would focus heavily on its family values, the quality of its products, concessions, shopping experience and the heart of the brand. And so the ‘Remember How it Used to Feel’ campaign was born.
John Lewis has continued this theme throughout the last 4 Christmas campaigns.
The 2010 Christmas ad ‘For Those That Care About Showing They Care’ featured a twinkly, emotive and romantic cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ by an artist who wasn’t particularly mainstream at the time, Ellie Goulding, the ad pulled at your heart strings and created the idyllic Christmas; love, friends, family and most importantly thoughtful gifts. The campaign was a huge success, the song catapulted Ellie Goulding into the mainstream, scoring her highest charting single (prior to 2013) an impressive #2 in the UK top 40, leading Prince William and Kate Middleton to hire Ellie to sing ‘Your Song’ for their wedding dance. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, John Lewis saw record breaking sales and ensured through the success of the song, that they were the go-to department store for young women wishing to replicate the Princesses clothing as well as topping best ad lists throughout the industry.
‘The Long Wait – for gifts you can’t wait to give’ possibly their best ad to date. Using the success of 2010 the message remained the same but ensured it wasn’t a rehashing of the previous ad. Starting as a child waiting for Christmas, a standard ad however to our surprise the child is in fact waiting to give his parents the gift. A bigger budget ensured that John Lewis would become the brand that would put you in the Christmas mood; something that only Coca Cola’s ‘Holidays are Coming’ has managed to do before and since.
The song, a cover of The Smiths ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ by Slow Moving Millie, didn’t match the chart success managing #31 in the UK top 40 but the trend of cover songs flooded our television screens, with the stand out of 2011 being Twinnings tea who used an unknown artist, Charlene Soria to promote their various blends. Covering The Callings previous #3 hit ‘Wherever You Will Go’ this indie /folk singer matched the originals success reaching #3, bringing Twinnings tea into the foreground of its predecessors monetary success.
In 2012 it wasn’t just the cover songs that filled the airwaves and goggle box but the use of indie and folk artists. The Lumineers ‘Hey Ho’ was a huge commercial success for the band but also for the promotion of E.ON Energy ‘Best Deal for You‘, the success of the single however reaching #8 in the UK top 40 far out sold E.ON Energy products and remained in our heads and on the radio way into 2013, it also reached #10 on the most played songs of 2013. Impressive stuff.
Another track to note in 2012 was the supporting song to Sky’s 2012/2013 advertising campaign, promoting the latest in drama television and their new Sky channels, they propelled little known indie/folk artist Passenger into radio playlists throughout the nation. The ‘Let Her Go’ hit remained in the UK top 40 for a staggering 38 weeks and has been such a success for Sky that they used the song to support many of their ads for 2013.
It used to be cultural trends outside of the world of fashion, music and advertising that influenced us, you just have to look at the 50’s (post war industry), 60’s (rise of the teenager), 70’s (politics and government) and 80’s (the financial big bang) to see that. But the impact of music in ads today has not only changed the way we see brands in modern advertising but it has changed UK culture. From the products we use, often more organic and natural, to brand fashion; with a more casual look for women from cropped hair to understated boyfriend blazers, neutral hair colours and make-up, fashion has seemed to relax and strip away the fuss much like the simplicity of acoustic guitars, playful melodies and less stylised indie / folk artists and music.
Granted, music has always influenced the west’s cultural changes and advertising, but for advertising to take the lead is a remarkable shift. A bold statement perhaps, but take a look back over recent years and you’ll see the transformation for yourself.