Heavy Metal, Teens & Marketing

You know that jingle you’ll never get out of your head? Mine is “588-2300…EMPIRE!” It’s ingrained in my brain cells from years of waking up to WBBM-AM in Chicago after college. I know you have one, too, and so do your teenage kids.

Apparently, there’s a new study by Emory University scientists and neuro-economists (have you ever heard of a professional with these creds before?) showing the correlation to new music (read that metal) and brain response. Teen brains react positively to various tunes they hear, and according to the study, the popularity and commercial success of a song can be predicted. The study story appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Songs Stick in Teens’ Heads; Research Shows Hit Songs Activate Pleasure, Reward Centers in Adolescent Brains.”

Get this:

* “The researchers usually could tell from the strength of brain activity alone which songs would later sell at least 20,000 copies.

* Five songs in the teens’ neural top 10 sold more than 50,000 copies each.

* Three songs that were not among the top 10 eventually became gold records selling more than 500,000  copies.”

Apparently, there’s a burgeoning field “in which psychologists and economists are using fMRI medical scanners and EEG brain-wave monitors to probe the automatic judgments people make below the surface of awareness that help shape decisions including purchasing and political choices.”

OK, WOW!

Not so sure this research is akin to why the Empire carpet jingle will forever be engraved in my brain; however, it certainly gives one pause when you associate the ability to predict commercial popularity with the synapse of a teen’s brain.

  • As parents, we ought to be careful about how our kids are used as guinea pigs in science projects, especially if your kid’s brain becomes tapped as a major predictor of product success.
  • As marketers of music (could the science of scent be that far behind?), run to Emory University and engage their team of neuro-economists (how do you earn that title, anyway) to learn how you can predict the next gold record.
  • As advertisers, get the list of top 10 new bands and songs that elicit the strongest brain response (here are five) and get those tunes incorporated into all the interactive ads you can produce:
  1. Job for a Cowboy, “Knee Deep” (metal)
  2. Lucky Boys Confusion “Atari” (alternative)
  3. Underminded, “Bring on the Flood” (metal)
  4. Tricosta/Fat Joe, “Make it Rain”  (hip hop/rap)
  5. Locash Cowboys, “Boom Boom” (country)
  • As public relations professionals, can’t you just see the possibilities with this? The marriage of technology and science is producing a scourge of opportunity for everyone in our profession. The only way you can ignore it is to unplug, and that still means making music.

Whaddya think?

(image: zazzle)

13 comments
Jenn Whinnem
Jenn Whinnem

This brings me back to Al Ries and _Positioning_ - jingles and taglines all help you own a place in the prospect's mind. I always love to read his column in Ad Age where he shows, over and over, how businesses that get away from "owning a word in the mind" lose market share.

That said, when the "cars for kids" ad comes on the radio, Steve goes NUTS in the car.

T. Shakirah Dawud
T. Shakirah Dawud

Lots of things going through my mind at this news, and yes, I do see PLENTY of possibilities here. Most of them aren't all that great, though, to me. What does it say about humans that we will basically "rig" the results of an advertisement--or a box-office rating, or an album debut--with the "magic music" to get that extra dollar?

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek

Really interesting stuff Jaymie! I think the fascinating part is if they figure out WHY people respond to certain songs vs others. Then, people really will be able to "manufacture" music. I'm partial to songwriters, so hopefully it never gets to that.

Erica Allison
Erica Allison

Rock on, Sister! Now I need to go find all my metal...

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman

I'm not a neuro-economist, but played one on TV.

Interesting though and it actually makes a lot of sense, but how do you test for it in the field? Can't be walking around w/ wires sticking out of our head, can we?

I noticed a metal theme; are you a metal head?

Hope your day is going well.

Jon Buscall
Jon Buscall

Fascinating Jayme. I'm now paranoid about my iPod !

Brad Lovett
Brad Lovett

With my previous radio career, it would be interesting to find out how brain scans would have predicted...or eliminated..the hits of the past. "Silly Love Songs" by Wings? Up or down. Everyone in the midwest knows the Empire jingle (the national version is 800-588-2300).

Soulati
Soulati

I agree with you and I am approaching this opportunity from a business standpoint. How can you not look at both angles? It's frightening how technology and science are making inroads in deciphering all corners of human function. In our lifetime, we'll not see the cloning, the brain-wave mapping, or the robotic humans/androids/Galacticans who will control our world. What's exciting is that the brain; the last frontier of science, if you will, is becoming more well known to researchers.

I'm hoping that these same scientists will be able to eventually cure dementia and push off Alzheimers and help victims of stroke, too. Humans have been rigging advertisements for eons -- aimed at children and teens to earn product promos. Disney is teaching English to Japanese children from a Disney campus so they're programmed to want to live and breathe Disney when that theme park opens. What does that say?

Not disagreeing with you, Shakirah; offering another angle. It's hard to fathom and accept; I shake my head and turn the processing to a business mode and see how that dollar is the culprit indeed.

Soulati
Soulati

Actually, it will be new fashion, Bill. Our 20 somethings will sign on to experiments during college to determine which professor's lecture is resonating with brain waves and recall. Nope not a metal head at all! In fact, can't dig it. I need a good source for my images; where are you shopping? Flickr takes too long and can't do that postcard thing cuz everyone else is (well two we know).

Day? OK. Saw your blue-eyed video; I think you wore a blue shirt on purpose.

Soulati
Soulati

That's funny to think about. My daughter listens to some '70s music, and she says, "yech, mom, what's that?"

T. Shakirah Dawud
T. Shakirah Dawud

Oh, I did look at both angles, certainly. And all the marketing books I've read, old and new, are aimed at pressing the inner buttons of our customers. And oh, yeah, I do my best to implement what I learn, for the good of both customers and my own business alike!

It's not easy to express why it seems that these biological studies bother me; I think they seem much more powerful because of the physical nature of the study (actual brainwaves!), but in application, the true reach is yet to be seen of course.

Glad you brought it to our attention at the angle you did, because it touched off reactions in me in a way I don't think it would have had I read it on the Discovery Channel.

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman

And of course it will be wireless so it will be just rods instead of wires sprouting from their domes.............

Shop? Ha........

I don't have much going for me, but I do have some blue eyes. 

Soulati
Soulati

As I mentioned, your perspective and viewpoints are welcome here. I believe we have a mutual think fest going on and it's healthy. Thank you.