Every childhood is filled with movie theme songs. And today it doesn’t take us long to remember at least one melody, hearing which as a child could make us run across the house towards the TV.
But as we grew older, music started meaning something different to us. We started hearing it more through our earphones and less from TVs. But it’s not because we stopped paying attention. On the contrary, it is quite typical for today’s most successful cinematic franchises, such as Marvel, not to have theme songs. Tony Zhou, a film editor, explains why in his video essay.
But this made me think about all sorts of brands.
I started looking for brands that have memorable, irreplaceable theme songs carrying them just like its logo carried Nike. Sadly, the closest I got was Mac OS’s startup chime.
And don’t get me wrong: brands still love using music whenever they get a chance, and it can be quite memorable too. For example, Microsoft used Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones at the launch of Windows 95. But the song wasn’t written for the launch and already had one strong brand overshadowing all possible future associations, which was the band performing it. Songs like this can be quite ineffective for branding because they are uncontrollable. Over time they can start associating with all sorts of things that brands nor their creators could ever predict. For example…
So why don’t brands have their own original theme songs?
Well… Michael Bierut, a graphic designer, once said: “it really is about thinking of these symbols as being empty vessels. And then you pour meaning into them”. He said it about logos, but I strongly feel that it also applies to music in branding. It takes years of consistent exposure to create a recognisable and meaningful brand. And if many try it with logos, why not try with a song? Many movies did it quite well after all.