Do Radio Jingles Work? Pros & Cons.

I absolutely cannot stand radio jingles. They offend my ears. They brutalize my very soul. They tie my heart up to a tree and beat it with a rusty tire iron. So why, oh why do they work so well!!!!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!11111

All I want to do is tell you people that Jingles don’t work. I want to tell you that your businesses will fail as soon as the first note is played on the radio. But, I ... just ... can’t.

What I can tell you is that radio jingles do indeed suck. There are no two ways about it. But, unfortunately, they tend to work as well. That doesn’t mean they get my full approval though. Not by a long shot. It just means I can’t truly advise you against their merits. I will tell you why they work, and why they suck though. Here’s why they work...

  • They get stuck in your head – In much the same way a tumour does. They’re gaudy, and cheesy, but our brains are designed to remember things that are said in a melodic way. That’s why everyone in Canada knows Alarm forces phone number. Even though it’s a bad phone number. As much as many of us loathe a bad radio jingle, the “good” bad ones get stuck in your head. If it gets played enough, you may even add the business that ran it to the top of your mental checklist.

That’s it. It may just be one point, but I am officially at the end of the “why radio jingles work” section of the article. Yes, it is only one point. To be fair, it is one very important point since name recognition is the biggest hurdle for your radio campaign. Name recognition brings me to my first point on the “why they suck” list.

  • Brand recognition – Don’t confuse name recognition with brand recognition. A jingle may help someone remember your name, phone number, or location, but it is cancerous for your brand. How do you want people to recognize your business? How have you represented yourself? What do you want people to say about you? We all know the ideal things we want said about our businesses, but when you use a radio jingle 95% of the time your brand is recognized as...
  • Cheesy – Radio jingles are mostly cheesy, and as a company that uses a jingle as its main advertising platform your brand is inherently cheesy as well. It’s a terrible trade off. There is one big positive that a jingle can bring, and don’t let me understate that point. It is a big damn deal to create retentive recognition. The problem is its verrrrrrrrrrry hard to establish anything other than a cheesy brand in the process.
  • Showcasing – I think jingles are being used incorrectly these days. Usually they’ll showcase a phone number. That was great in the past, but these days, phone numbers are less important. People have many different ways to contact your business. They have computers, and smart phones. Google rules everything. If I were to gain name recognition from a jingle, it would be purely by using the business name or the website. Phone numbers aren’t quite dead, but they’re definitely dying.
  • You need to run them a lot – To get that melody into people’s heads you need to play it a lot. Most companies that run successful campaigns based on a jingle have large advertising budgets. There are a lot of other jingles out there that never become recognizable. That means they weren’t very good or they weren’t played enough to get lodged in the public’s brain. I always argue that any message played enough will work. But, a better message played less will work better and cost less. Again, most companies that have successful jingle campaigns have large budgets. If I have a large budget, I’m certainly not basing my brand on a jingle. We can do much better than that.
  • They’re expensive – For a small business owner a jingle can be an enormous cost, and that means you’ll be running them forever to get value out of it. I always say it’s important to stick to your brand, so that doesn’t seem like a big deal. The problem is over time your business will evolve and mature. Your customers will age and renew. Your brand must evolve as well. It’s very hard to evolve your brand when you’re tied to an expensive jingle from a decade ago. Sure, people will recognize it more and more over the years. But, the fact that it stays exactly the same through time will show your prospective clients that you are an old dinosaur. You don’t mature or evolve. You stay the same. And believe me, radio jingles are not wine. They do not get better over time. They age dreadfully. Don’t allow your business to deteriorate into cobwebs and despair. Don’t give your competitors the advantage to out manoeuvre you by stagnating your brand evolution. If you choose to buy a jingle package, put a serious time limit on it. Let’s say 5-10 years.

Ok, I’m settled down now. No doubt this won’t sit well with many who read this. Remember that I didn’t say they’re worthless, but radio jingles absolutely come with a trade off. In general, a bad cheesy jingle will have an advantage over a “bad to average” radio commercial. It will have the advantage over a good radio message that’s used sparsely or incorrectly. But, it will pale in comparison to a well conceived long term branding campaign. If you’d like one of those instead, I’d love to help you out. If you’re looking for jingles, good luck! I have no doubt that you will have some success as well. They are the right choice for some businesses. It’s not my thing, but I’d be a monumental liar if I said they didn’t work.

With all that being said, I do like purposefully bad radio jingles. A jingle that knows it's terrible is wonderfully charming. I've actually added a product just like that. Check out the "Bad Jingles" page to learn more!