Music in Advertising: The Sweet Sounds of Brand Growth

The marriage between music and advertising is a long, and overwhelmingly happy, union. And it’s a lot older than you might think – stretching back to the 16th century, at least. 

Back in the days of advertising yore, jingles were very much a heartbeat of marketing; small sonic ambassadors, transmitted through radio and television (or via old-fashioned live performance, in the case of Elizabethan England) that nestled and lingered in the minds of consumers. 

Fast forward, though, and the proliferation of smartphones and streaming presents advertisers with a golden opportunity to connect with audiences through well-crafted soundscapes: whether encountered out in the public world, or privately, through our headphones.

In an increasingly visually-cluttered world – just take a look at the sheer number of ads all around, as you scroll through social media, or make your way through the train station – music serves as a sonic oasis, capturing attention amidst the chaos.

Done right, music in advertising goes right to the minds and hearts of potential consumers; forging connections in a way that visual ads struggle to replicate.

But… how exactly does it work? And why?  


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Why Music Matters 

When executed with skill, music in advertising transcends an auditory experience; it creates an access point into the very essence of human emotion and memory according to our market research

Melody, in particular, possesses a unique ability to evoke feelings and create lasting impressions. As a universal language, music is like a bridge; one capable of connecting brands with audiences on an emotional level. Its innate memorability makes it a tool for crafting brand experiences that resonate long after the ad has played.

Solidifying Brand Identity

Consistency and distinctiveness are the pillars upon which brand identity is built. 

While consistency ensures that your brand is reliably present in the minds of consumers, fostering recognition and trust, distinctive assets – whether a memorable jingle or recognisable characters – set your brand apart in the sea of noise, carving a unique space in the auditory landscape. 

Take, for instance, GoCompare’s opera-inspired Over There, or McDonald’s inimitable I’m Lovin’ It whistle: iconic, music-driven auditory signatures that instantly signify the brand.

Keying-In to Audience Emotion: How Music Affects Purchase Behaviour

Our research reveals that campaigns evoking positive emotions (as measured by Star Rating) provoke a remarkable average +8.2% uplift in consumers taking various actions. 

By creating ads that leave listeners feeling positively surprised and happy, advertisers unlock the potential for long-term brand effects and increased consumer engagement.

Because, as we know: when people feel more, they buy more.

Some Types of Music to Consider 

The palette of musical options available to marketers is as diverse as the brands they represent. From background melodies to catchy jingles, each type serves a distinct purpose in crafting an immersive audio ad experience. 

The key lies not just in the choice of music but in its quality and suitability for the brand message; high-quality, well-selected music enhances the emotional impact of an ad, making it more memorable and resonant with audiences.

Background Music

Effective background music (BGM) seamlessly integrates with the narrative, enhancing the overall emotional tone of an ad. It should complement the message without overshadowing it. 

Crafting emotionally-resonant background music in advertising requires a balance between subtlety and expressiveness. The goal is to create a sonic backdrop that subtly guides the listener’s emotions, supporting the primary message without overwhelming it.

Jingles and Musical Slogans

Jingles and musical slogans have stood the test of time as powerful branding tools. An optimum jingle is catchy, memorable, and encapsulates the essence of a brand – consider how inseparable McDonald’s slogan, and indeed the entire brand, are from its simple melody. 

The raw ingredients include a distinctive yet simple melody and lyrics, and a rhythm that lingers in the minds of consumers. 

Ba da da da daa…

Calls to Action

Blending musicality with calls to action (CTAs) adds a dynamic layer to an ad, making the direct instructive message more engaging and memorable. 

However, it’s crucial to strike a balance, ensuring that the musical elements enhance rather than distract from the CTA. Be aware of the pacing and timing in order to avoid confusion, dissonance, or coming across as ‘shouty.’ Subtlety is the key here. You can use our intuitive brand tracking tool to measure the effect musical assets have on your brand.

Popular Songs & Figures

Hitching your wagon to popular songs from the world of mainstream music offers an opportunity to leverage instant recognisability – in many ways, it’s a bit of a cheat code. Examples like Just Eat’s collaboration with Snoop Dogg and Katy Perry, or Three’s Dancing Pony, joyfully strutting its stuff to Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, show how to get it right.

Stock Music

Finally, while stock music in advertising has a reputation for genericity, dismissing it outright would be a mistake. When chosen judiciously, stock music can be a cost-effective and suitable option for certain ads.

How to Harness the Power of Music in Advertising

1. Tap Into Emotion

Music is a potent emotional trigger. Choose music that resonates with the intended emotional tone of your ad. Whether it’s evoking joy, nostalgia, or excitement, the emotional connection formed through music is a powerful tool for brand impact.

2. Incorporate Right-Brain Elements

Engage your audience’s broad-beam attention with right-brain elements. These audience insights include things like a discernible melody, a sense of narrative, memorable characters and ‘betweenness’ (as in Guinness’ Precious Moments), sotto voce, and dramatic pauses. 

3. Focus on Being Memorable

Adhere to your brand’s own distinctive style to set your ad apart. Don’t follow industry conventions and competitor standards simply because it’s the done thing; highlight your brand’s uniqueness, through music, to leave a lasting impression.

4. Aim For Wide Market Penetration

Rather than hyper-focusing on a narrow target audience, aim for wide market penetration. Being seen as distinctive by a broad audience contributes massively to increased recognition and long-term growth success.

5. Test Your Ads – Early and Often

Successful ads require continuous testing to ensure they resonate. Evaluate key metrics – Star Rating, Spike Rating, and Fluency – to assess the emotional response, brand recognition, and overall impact of your ads. That’s what our brand monitoring platform is built to do.


How to Measure Results

Finally, while stock music in advertising has a reputation for genericity, dismissing it outright would be a mistake. When chosen judiciously, stock music can be a cost-effective and suitable option for certain ads.

Effectively measuring the impact of your audio ads is crucial for refining your strategy and enhancing future campaigns. Here are key metrics to gauge success:

  • Star Rating: Provides insights into how positively listeners respond to your ad. Serves as a reliable predictor of an ad’s potential to contribute to long-term brand growth.
  • Spike Rating: Predicts the potential for an ad to drive immediate actions, such as increased sales, donations, or other calls to action. 
  • Fluency Rating: Reflects how well your ad is remembered and linked to your brand, immediately after a listener has consumed the ad.

To learn more about interpreting music in advertising data and the System1 model of effectiveness, download Listen Up! for free now.

Final Thoughts: Music, Advertising, and the Future

As we move forward, the synergy between music and brand identity looks to become more important than ever before. 

The future promises a symphony of possibilities – pardon the pun – for brands willing to be bold and harness the emotional resonance of music in advertising.

Sonic branding has evolved alongside the technology that now powers our busy lives, offering new opportunities for brands. But a key thing to remember is this: the impact of music in advertising is magnified powerfully when it’s viewed as one connected part of the wider machine. 

That means consistency across audio touchpoints; a distinctive flavour that mirrors your brand’s visual presence; and a right-brain, broad-beam appeal that attracts (rather than demands) attention.  

This is the way to forge deep and long-lasting connections, and lay the foundations for sustained brand growth.

If you’d like to go deeper into the science behind music in advertising, be sure to check out our latest research paper, Listen Up!, produced in collaboration with Radiocentre, the voice of commercial radio.

And, don’t forget: you can gain valuable insights into the short and long-term brand effects of new marketing campaigns and ad concepts by taking advantage of our ad testing platform

Happy listening. 


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful advertising insights platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

Get in touch or book a demo with one of our experts to learn more.

Want More Radio Advertising Insights?

Are you interested in the ways radio advertising can build your brand in the long term? Looking for data to support creative, commercial radio ad decisions? Download our new report, Listen Up!, for free now.