Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Earworm Branding: "Can't Get It Out of My Head"

“Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” the 1974 ELO song that launched the band into America’s Top Ten, is the dream of every brand marketer for his target regarding his brand’s tagline or jingle. Say, “It’s the real thing,” “Have it your way,” or “Like a good neighbor,” and a phenomenon happens: earworming. An earworm is the psychological nickname for that contagious song or slogan that burrows into someone’s mind and relentlessly takes residence. What better advertising is there than getting a jingle or tagline stuck on “repeat” in a prospect’s mind?

Given that a tagline is a single message that succinctly delivers your organization’s identity into a tasty, bite-sized morsel, how do you turn the innocuous into exhilarating? Below are six earworming guidelines to help in the development of your brand’s tagline or jingle:
  1. Be short and sweet: The rule of thumb is 5 to 10 words, which can be a sentence or a fragment. Use words that target your company’s identity.
  2. Be unique: Imitating popular phrases don't help your brand, it helps the originator’s brand. 
  3. Be pleasing to the ear: Incorporate rhythm, repetition, and/or rhyme. Be a poet and you’ll enhance your chances of being remembered.
  4. Be active and direct: Use active voice (subject does the action) instead of passive voice (action is done to the subject) for a stronger, more succinct delivery. "Bayer works wonders." has more impact than "Wonders are worked by Bayer."
  5. Be benefits oriented: What makes your company appealing? Burger King let’s you “Have it your way.” State Farm is “like a good neighbor.” What can your company do for your customer?
That's the "what." Now for the "how." According to research by Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, led by psychologist, Dr. Victoria Williamson, four key elements invite memorability to take place:  exposure (repetition), memory triggers, affective states (mood or feelings), and low attention states (such as daydreaming). So when and how does a brand manager plan for these opportunities? Consider the following four areas:
  1. Exposure: Research shows that repeating your brand message throughout the day through a variety of outlets facilitates faster branding thereby increasing chances for that memorable affect. 
  2. Memory: The brain has both short- and long-term memory. It’s the long-term memory that solidifies branding because this is where emotions are processed. These memories are especially heightened when the senses--sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste--are involved. 
  3. Mood/Feelings: Emotional tone enhances the consumer’s ability to remember; therefore incorporate positive feelings. Connect with the consumer to increase future associations that potentially will produce positive results. 
  4. Low Attention States: Capitalizing on low attention states will take more deliberate thought, but it’s worth the effort. For example, people play the radio in the background as they work, drive, play, etc. Depending on your product and target, radio may be a great way to attach your brand to your prospect’s memory. Also, consider when and where your customers are when they are about to select a competitor’s product or service and stash your brand message there.
In the branding world, the phenomenon of earworms can happen with careful and purposeful planning.

Williamson, Victoria J.; Jilka, Sagar R.; Joshua, Fry; Finkel, Sebastian; Müllensiefen, Daniel; Stewart, Lauren. (2011). How do ''earworms'' start? Classifying the everyday circumstances of Involuntary Musical Imagery. Psychology of Music. Published online 27 September 2011 
DOI: 10.1177/0305735611418553

Carrabis, Joseph. (2014). “6 steps for getting your brand into their heads”. iMedia Connection. Published online 17 April 2014

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