The small sounds consumer products make—whether a snap, click, rustle or pop—can be memorable and deeply satisfying, often suggesting luxury, freshness, effectiveness or security.
Companies, in their endless drive to motivate customers to buy, are paying more attention to these product noises and going to great lengths to manipulate them. Sound is emerging as a new branding frontier.
British band The xx have partnered with store Urban Outfitters to create a 40-page zine entitled “And We’ll Be, Us”. Released last Saturday across Urban Outfitters locations in the US and Canada, the zine features original articled by The xx as well as never-before-seen handwritten lyrics and photographs taken Jamie-James Medina from May - August 2012, during the making/promotion of latest album Coexist. The zine was released in a run of 75,000, so if you’re quick you can probably still pick one up.
I don’t know. A zine published by Urban Outfitters? I don’t care how cool it is: That’s a bummer.
Jewel’s life came full circle with the release of her second children’s album, The Merry Goes ‘Round, when she sang one of the songs during a promotional appearance at Walmart—and changed the lyrics to be about the big-box retailer.
The last time a song of hers mentioned Walmart, it was from the perspective of being homeless, so her situation has certainly brightened since then. I don’t begrudge her any of her success, and her song isn’t terrible (although if I had kids, they’d be listening to The Free Design). But it always makes me a little sad when musicians partner up with Walmart. I feel like I’m watching a bird fall in love with its cage.
Almost ten (!) years ago, I wrote a column for Slate about Jewel’s curious relationship to megabrands, pegged to her hit song “Intuition,” which happened to get a lot of exposure through its use in an ad campaign for a razor with same name:
How to explain writing a song that tells us all to resist the total marketing mentality all around us, promoting it with a video that satirizes advertising, all the while urging us to just be ourselves—and then licensing that song to a consumer products company for a huge sales campaign?
In Santa Barbara, Chevron stations have videos displaying advertisements at pumps while customers fill their cars up with gas. The videos have accompanying sound. A lawyer successfully stopped a city ordinance that would have required the installation of a mute button so that customers could opt out of hearing the ads.
One funny side note is the name of the Santa Barbara publication in which story appears. It is the Daily Sound.
MNDR takes their fans on tour in a new music video for the track C.L.U.B., which puts the viewer right in the action. The interactive video looks like an exchange on the iPhone, and uses your Facebook data to create personalized posts and texts between you and your friends. The video also uses information about your hometown and job to create a truly tailored experience.
That sounds horrible.
Details at adage.com on plan by Spotify, the music-streaming service, to aid brands in collating playlists for its reported 10 million listeners. Brings to mind not only the playlist as the new jingle (i.e., the in-flux cloud formation of associative music in place of a single sound object), as…
Does the start-up sound of a computer have an emotional meaning to its user? Why are ringtones more popular than ringback tones? Is the commercial jingle a relic in our supposedly media-savvy age? How does a retail space decide upon its playlist? Do bars and restaurants really sell more drinks when the music is played louder? Why do some stores hide their speakers, while others make them prominent features of the interior design? Should websites have scores, or background music, the way that movies and TV shows do? Should ebooks? Should movies and TV shows, for that matter? Why are voice actors famous in some countries and largely anonymous in others? What have online MP3 retailers learned from brick’n’mortar stores — what have they unlearned, and what have they forgotten? How do darknet filesharing services promote themselves in secret? What does the relative prominence of social-network functionality say about Apple, Bandcamp, eMusic, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, and other online services? When and why did musicians stop being perceived as sell-outs when they licensed their songs to TV commercials?
What, to put it simply, does a brand sound like?
These are some of the questions we’ll explore in a course I’ll be teaching this autumn at the Academy of Art in San Francisco (academyart.edu).
Wish I could attend ….
I’m pleased to say that I’ve been invited to curate Songs With a Brand Name, an industrious project headed by Piotr Ślusarski. Together we will set up a monster playlist of songs that mention brands. Please give our blog a follow and like us on Facebook for more in depth articles and commentary. And of course, feel free to contribute songs we may not have covered yet.
Friend of Product Displacement, Piotr Ślusarski, has launched Songs With a Brand Name, a directory of songs that mention brands within its lyrics or title. A great feature of the sight is searching for songs that mention a particular brand. Give Pandora a break and check out his site!!