Striking the Right Chord: The Middle Ground Between Music and Brand Suitability

By Darryl Ballantyne, Founder and CEO, LyricFind

In an age where consumers are overwhelmed with targeted advertising messages, brands with strong reputations for trustworthiness and authenticity have the upper hand on their competition. Gone are the days in which consumers are blindly sold. A recent study reports 88 percent of consumers say that brand authenticity is a critical factor when deciding what brands they like and support. Ensuring that brand messaging hits the perfect note with its audience is the key to successful marketing and brand loyalty.

Establishing authenticity begins with a solid foundation of messaging to speak to a brand’s values. From visuals to copy, each element of a marketing campaign is carefully considered at development stages to help further align brand values and voice. However, incorporating and utilizing music lyrics to further establish that voice remains an overlooked element in establishing authenticity and brand suitability, leaving many companies and brands struggling to find their rhythm.

Lyrics – if done correctly – are often used as a critical marketing element to help a brand tell a story, infusing emotion and prompting a call to action to consumers. The incorporation of music and lyrics serves as an extension of the brand voice.

While some marketing channels may choose a track with explicit lyrics to suit their “edgy” persona, that wouldn’t be the route a more “clean” brand may take. Brands also must consider which outlets allow certain lyrics. Explicit or profane content is not permitted by law in broadcast TV commercials, but platforms like YouTube would not have these restrictions due to the filters for underage viewers.

Brands also must consider the nuance that comes along with lyric choice. Music and lyrics connect with a range of consumers in terms of both psychographics and demographics, and this is something that brands seeking lasting loyalty cannot ignore. It only takes one objectionable lyric to not only steer audiences away, but also potentially spark social media campaigns and calls to action.

Cultural sensitivities of consumers today are often the difference makers between a thriving single and a “canceled” catalog, with anyone as their target. Superstars Beyonce and Lizzo have recently proven they are not exempt, with both having edited and re-released recordings for using ableist language in their songs. Aside from the lyric choice itself, lyrical context must also be considered. Artists like Taylor Swift and Paramore have gone as far as changing lyrics or stopped performing material criticized by listeners who have retroactively taken issue with lyrics released years ago that they now regard as problematic.

Unlike these music megastars, brands that make the same mishaps are rarely granted the same grace. Evaluating musical assets is a necessary step marketers cannot afford to skip. Adding a brand suitability component to global campaign management can provide insights to aid creative directors in choosing the right tunes that both speak to their brand values and voice without alienating their audience.

Marketers can more effectively avoid coming off as off-putting when developing scalable and global campaigns by approaching their campaigns through the consumer’s point of view, focusing on the lyrics and sentiment behind the songs they consider.

Brands need to utilize the range of brand-suitability solutions to make the right consumer connections, at a global scale. Tools now exist to help develop the framework for potential flags, filters and rate the emotional quotient and cultural nuances of lyrics – going well beyond the traditional definition of “explicit” lyrics.

Advertisers must understand that brands have little room for error in messaging these days, regardless of the intention and context. Applying meticulous detail to lyrical content is essential to the creative development of brand voice. Artists, corporations and marketers alike must consider the lasting effects song lyrics have on brand suitability, whether through campaigns, marketing materials or the music itself.