It’s 2 PM and you’ve long since finished your lunch. You’re deep into your work, contemplating stocks and mergers when the voices in your head begin their insistent beat, “My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R.” You clear your throat audibly, hoping the actual sound of your own voice will set you right. Next, you tap the keys on your calculator and scribble a few numbers, the it starts up again, “My bologna has a second name it’s M-A-Y-E-R.”
And that’s it. You absolutely cannot continue your work until you have a bologna sandwich. Even though you’re not really hungry. Even though your client needs those figures YESTERDAY.
What is it about jingles within a PR Campaign that make them worm their way into your psyche? The lyrics aren’t particularly well-written, and it’s not like the music is, either. But somehow, they stick in your mind, returning again and again, at the most inopportune times, urging you to do or buy something—something you may not even need.
20th Century Phenomenon
Jingles are a 20th century phenomenon and after more than 90 years, still an effective enough advertising method. That is to say, jingles get you to do or buy things in spite of yourself. If it’s catchy enough, a jingle will stay with you long after you’ve heard it, and will continue to affect your subconscious.
The first jingle was born in Minneapolis on X-mas Eve in 1926, when a jingle by an a cappella group known as the Wheaties Quartet first aired. The quartet sang the praises of Wheaties cereal, which had not been selling well at all. In fact, General Mills had been about to discontinue production of the cereal when executives at the company noted that Wheaties sales had spiked in every area where the jingle had hit the airwaves.
A decision was made to air the jingle all over the United States and Wheaties began selling like, well, like hotcakes. Only a decade or so short of reaching its milestone 100th birthday, the breakfast cereal is still going strong, not just in the United States but all over the world. The jingle, too, as an advertising medium, is still very much alive and well.
There’s no question that jingles get into your mind and stay with you. The secret is in having a catchy meter and in the simplicity of the message. Short jingles are known to have the greatest impact and rhymes are effective, too.
If the jingle is memorable enough, it can make a difference in consumer purchases and activities. As an example, a consumer might be in a supermarket, about to purchase ketchup. Brand preference and loyalty may be skewed toward the Hunt’s brand condiment. But as the consumer is about to reach for the Hunt’s, a jingle may occur, “Heinz is what ketchup tastes like,” and the consumer’s hand reaches for the Heinz, instead.
By the same token, if a consumer has no brand preference or loyalty, the jingle may captivate enough to draw the consumer’s attention to the brand. And it’s not only about products but about all sorts of things, for instance not littering as a result of hearing a jingle about not being a “litterbug.” A jingle may have you dialing “1877 Kars4Kids” when you’ve already decided to donate your car to charity, because you remember the number from the jingle. Had it not been for that jingle, you might have looked up “car donation” on Google or in the Yellow Pages, to find what you need. But the number sticks with you, so that it’s already there in your mind when the need arises.
Jingles have proven their worth in advertising over the past century as a means of consumer persuasion. Catchy jingles may tell you about really great products or services that might have escaped your notice. Conversely, jingle may push you in the direction of a product’s competitor for no other reason than that the competitor’s jingle stuck in your mind.
Jingles can also have an impact on our behavior or even on the environment. How many children stopped before dropping a candy wrapper on the ground after remembering that jingle about the litterbug? How many people took care to douse a campfire after hearing a jingle that said, “Only you can prevent forest fires?”
In considering the worth and purpose of the jingle, the phrase, “caveat emptor” comes to mind, which, come to think of it, would make an awfully good jingle. Oh, and by the way, that bologna jingle works pretty well for selling hotdogs too.