When GSK began implementing television and radio advertising for prescription Trelegy, their jingle was a takeoff on the 1970 Jackson-5 hit, “ABC.” The commercial aired frequently, especially in the late evening hours. While it’s true that the jingle “stuck with” consumers, why did GSK choose that song as the basis of their jingle for Trelegy? Why not another song? After all, music business history is peppered with blockbuster hits.
To answer that question, we must first take a look at how our human brain processes and stores musical memories and emotions.
The ability to remember music and sound is a function of echoic memory, which enables us to store audio memories for up to four seconds. That’s significantly longer, by the way, than iconic memory, which stores our remembrance of visuals.
The goal is for the remembrance of sound to makes its way into our short-term memory and then into our long-term memory, where it becomes intertwined with other parts of our brain in which emotion is processed and remembered.
The Science of Music, Emotion and Memory
The bridge between music, emotion and memory lies in our episodic and semantic memory centers. Episodic memory for musical information is defined as "the capacity to recognize a musical excerpt (whether familiar or not) for which the spatiotemporal context surrounding its former encounter (i.e., when, where, and how) can be recalled.”
Semantic memory allows us to identify familiar songs or melodies by naming the tune or by humming or whistling the subsequent notes of a melody.
In a study of the memories and emotions that are often evoked when hearing musical pieces from one's past, researchers found that when subjects were presented with a large set of short musical excerpts (not longer than 30 seconds per excerpt) of past popular songs, 30% of them evoked autobiographical memories.
In addition, most of the songs also evoked strong emotions—mainly positive ones, such as nostalgia.
A further part of the same study assessed whether different psychological conditions present during the encoding phase might have an influence on musical memory performance:
"For this, researchers divided participants into two groups: one required to judge valence during encoding (the emotion group) and the other required to estimate the length and general loudness of each musical stimulus (the time-estimation group). The two groups did not differ in their recognition scores.
It is interesting that the time-estimation group, despite not concentrating on the emotions during the first encoding session, showed the same recognition performance as the emotion group. This shows that emotion is automatically evoked by the musical pieces and inevitably influences recognition, even when it is not focused on."
All of this leads us to the 3 reasons why jingles made from hit songs have an impact on consumers.
Reason #1: Music Evokes Memory and Emotion
To sum up the aforementioned research in really simple terms, music that we’ve heard many times before automatically evokes memories, and, more importantly, emotions. When we connect those emotions to solving consumer problems (like labored breathing caused by lung dysfunction), we create powerful brand messaging that is memorable, emotional and instantly recognizable.
Reason #2: Music Tells a Story
Think back to ABC. The chorus, which is the “hook” of the song, chants, “A-B-C, it’s easy as 1-2-3, it’s easy as Do-Re-Mi, A-B-C, 1-2-3, Baby you and me, girl.” It tells the story of a relationship that’s a perfect fit. And that’s a big part of the story imparted on consumers in the Trelegy ads that featured the ABC derivative jingle.
Reason #3: The Association with the Artist
Another factor that can increase the memorability of music in advertising is the artists or musicians who made the song a hit. Celebrity or ‘expert’ influence is of course a factor here—advertisements featuring a well-known song or artist are able to harness the power of their existing popularity.