October 29, 2020

Her name was Lola

An epic blog post

October 29, 2020

Her name was Lola

If you like Piña coladas, or if your name is Luka, or if you are on a dark desert highway and have ever wondered why some songs are more memorable than others, this post might help you understand how some of these songs have survived over time, and how they are used to manipulate us.

Catchy tunes are sweet and trendy. But when it comes to songs you can sing by heart, a clear line can be drawn between a generic “I love you” tune and a song that has a story to tell.

Ask yourself, how well do you remember the lyrics of “Hotel California” or “Bohemian Rhapsody?” Most of us would answer “pretty well,” and not just because these were massive hits. Over the years, many songs have been huge hits, but only a few really resonate over time. Some songs made enough sense and had enough of a specific pattern that just made them stick in our brains. Don’t believe me? Well, let see if you can complete these:

“Her name was Lola she was a…”
“Ground Control to Major…”
“Cause for twenty-four years I’ve been living next door to…”

Our brains weren’t designed to remember facts and figures, but, rather, visual impressions, environments, and stories.

Stories work better when told consecutively. They also work better when combined with other elements, like an image or a tune, which helps our brains to absorb them better. Memory trainers teach you to transform large amounts of information into a coherent story to help you remember them. Adding rhymes or even a tune an help create an even stronger impression. Advertisers call that type of message “a giggle.” And it is so effective that it’s hard to imagine saying the McDonald’s slogan “I’m loving it” without singing it.

Understanding this relationship, advertisers have evolved from creating jingles to manipulating already popular songs to make them more effective. They now use songs you already like and that are already embedded in your subconscious mind to sell products. The formula is simple. Take a product, any product (a router, a yogurt, a hotel, anything really). Then take a well-known song, preferably one with a story, then mix your message in it. And… Alakazam! — you’ve got an effective commercial.

Go ahead, turn on your TV set, and count how many well-known songs are in an average commercial break. It’s impossible to escape from this new cocktail that advertisers are serving us. We know it’s potent, but it has come to the point that amounts to downright lazy advertising. No story, no message; just being force-fed with a product and a tune.

Yes. Using well-known songs in advertising is here to stay. But this use has become so overused that we have forgotten that its whole purpose was to help tell a story, and now, many times, it does everything but that.