Brand music is any music that's strongly associated with the brand, be it licensed commercial music or specially composed brand themes of songs. Some brands have won great appeal by associating themselves with a piece of music. One good example of this is British Airways' use of the Flower Duet (Sous le dôme épais) from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé. BA doesn't own this piece of music: it has been used in many films, from Meet The Parents to Carlito's Way. But no other brand would be able to use this music now without either parodying or in some other way making reference to BA, such is the association in the minds of the TV viewing public, in the UK at least. BA has also used the music as its on-hold sound, and on its fleet as background music while boarding and after landing. The music communicates peace, calm, beauty, class, distinction, refinement - all in all, an inspired choice and one which continues to benefit BA today.
This example shows how to form a powerful and positive association by creating brand music from a pre-existing commercial piece at a modest cost. Even if the music is far more expensive, as is becoming common in the vibrant ‘band/brand' market, where brands are effectively becoming the modern-day patrons of the crippled music industry, the effects can be well worth it. According to North and Hargreaves, consumers are "24 per cent more likely to buy a product with music that they recall, like and fits the brand compared with eight per cent when the opposite applies".
Brand music can include promotions or alliances such as the 2005 relationship between T-Mobile and Robbie Williams, where the artist's tracks were made available early or even exclusively to T-Mobile subscribers. However, this kind of deal is more in the domain of celebrity endorsement and does not identify the brand with a particular sound to the same degree. Brand music is most powerful when it is the identifiable musical expression of the brand identity, not just a piece of mutually beneficial joint promotion.
A great example of the effective use of brand music in marketing communications is Coca-Cola. The company leveraged its sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa to the maximum by using brand music that also cleverly embedded its sonic logo.
They chose a song by the relatively unknown Somali-born Canadian artist K'naan to be the cornerstone of its $300m World Cup campaign. The song features Coke's five-note sonic logo prominently but very naturally in what my friend Ruth Simmons of the soundlounge agency calls ‘audio watermarking'; others call it an ‘earworm'. As Ruth says: "We go around humming it as we walk down the street and not understanding why. We effectively become living, walking, singing commercials for Coke."
The earworm has been an astounding success. The song has been released in 150 markets, with localised versions in 15 countries. More to the point, it reached number one in 17 countries and has been bought online over 800,000 times; video versions of the single have had 87 million views on YouTube. That's a lot of people humming the Coke logo! You can see a short movie made by soundlounge about the Coke campaign and hear the song and the sonic logo on their website.
In the future, I hope we will see brands applying some of the principles of psychoacoustics to make sure that the music they create and identify with (or make part of) their brand is actually appropriate, effective and consistent with the rest of their branding.
Julian Treasure - a global expert in the evaluation, strategic planning, implementation and deployment of sound in business; the chairman of The Sound Agency - a leading audio-branding consultancy; the author of Sound Business, a seminal book on how to apply sound for business benefit, and the creator of BrandSoundTM : a strategic framework for the effective use of sound in brand management.