Rapping hamsters, lovesick Swiffers, young love blossoming over a stick of gum…
Chances are at least one of those things makes you think “Where (and more importantly, WHY) have I seen this before?”. This week, we’re diving deep into our memory — both conscious and subconscious — and talking about commercials. Why? Because I went to school for marketing and can geek out for hours about the psychological effects of advertising on consumers. And right at the intersection of commercials and my love for music lies the absolutely FASCINATING world of music in advertising. Stay with me here.
When it’s used well, a song featured in a commercial can stay in your head for longer than you ever wanted it to. I mean, in some cases, a song used in a commercial can come to define a brand or product (looking at you, Six Flags). Whether or not you care to admit it, there are plenty of songs that you heard for the very first time because you heard it in a commercial. Or songs that make you go “Isn’t this the song from that one commercial?”. If me geeking out about this hasn’t completely freaked you out yet, let’s take a look at some of the songs that are forever ingrained in my memory from commercials I grew up with.
“New Soul” by Yael Naim – Macbook Air (2008)
First of all, I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since the first Macbook Air was introduced. Pretty sure my Macbook Pro is thinner than this now, but I guess that’s technology for ya. I literally had a spiritual experience the first time I saw this commercial. The song is so simple, but it was paired with such a huge announcement and oh my God it was iconic. Within minutes, I had opened iTunes, downloaded the song, and synced it to my iPod Nano. Apple really had me in their clutches. Fun fact, “New Soul” reached #7 on the Billboard Top 100 chart immediately following this commercial. Tell me again how music in advertising isn’t important?
“Baby Come Back” by Player – Swiffer WetJet (2006)
When I said earlier that some songs just make you go “Isn’t this the song from that one commercial?”, THIS is exactly what I mean. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t be thrilled to learn that I only know about this song because of a Swiffer commercial, but boy did it get the job done. Definitely walked around the quad at my junior high singing this song with my friends.
“We Like to Party” by Vengaboys – Six Flags (2004)
The fact that I thought this song was specifically written to be the Six Flags jingle and not an actual, legitimate, preexisting song says everything we need to know. And the iconic dancing old man (whose name I just learned is Mr. Six)? Six Flags took this song and said “You belong to US now.”
“Our House” by Madness – Maxwell House (2007)
So I did some digging on this one and found that Madness was HUGE in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s. In fact, Maxwell House aired a similar commercial with this song in the UK that featured the Dublin Fire Brigade. It wasn’t until they made a US version of the commercial that Madness really entered the States. So again I tell you, music used well in advertising can have a major impact. Unrelated but honorable mention to the absolute queen coming in with a key change at the 9-second mark.
“More Than a Feeling” by Boston – Pechanga Resort & Casino (2009)
Maybe it’s the fact that my grandparents were big Pechanga fans (Let’s call it what it is. They loved to gamble), or the fact that it seems like this commercial played during every single commercial break, but this song has always stuck with me. Even as I’ve become more familiar with Boston’s discography, “More Than a Feeling” will always be the Pechanga song. I don’t make the rules.
“1234” by Feist – Apple iPod Nano (2007)
Does anyone else remember going absolutely feral over the colors this iPod came in? Here’s another simple yet effective and powerful Apple commercial. The product sells itself, but the music definitely doesn’t hurt. It wasn’t long before I had this song downloaded on my green iPod Nano.
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Cover) – Haley Reinhart (2015)
This is the kind of commercial that marketing students go nuts for. I’m a sucker for a commercial that tugs at the heartstrings, and this one fully ripped out my heartstrings. To me, the sign of a great commercial is that you don’t want to skip it. I watch this one all the way through every single time, and every single time I have watery eyes by the end. How dare a GUM of all products do this to me.
“You’re My Best Friend” by Queen – Carnival Cruise Line (2008)
This song is still doing its subconscious magic on me because I will forever associate it with cruises. Does that make me want to go on a cruise? No, because they are germy and crowded and there’s too much food available that I get overwhelmed, but I digress. Commercials are great at introducing even the biggest bands to new generations. Not that Queen needed the help, but some extra air time never hurt anyone.
“Daylight” by Matt and Kim – Bacardi (2009)
This song and commercial remind me of summer at my grandparents’ house. I would watch TV there because we didn’t have cable at home. I was nowhere near the legal drinking age in 2009, yet every time this commercial came on I would think “Hmm, I wonder what Bacardi tastes like.” Spoiler alert: I’m now of legal drinking age and definitely not a rum gal.
“The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” by Black Sheep – KIA Soul (2010)
And finally, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance: The Hamster Commercial. I mean…absolutely iconic. I think about this commercial every time I see a KIA Soul OR a hamster. Will my next car be a KIA Soul? Maybe! I needed this car at age 14 and I think I still need it now. To whomever came up with this concept, may both sides of your pillow always be cold.