Social & Influencers

TikTok helped revive the marketing jingle. Just don’t call it that.

Modern versions of brand anthems are “singles, not jingles,” one creative said.
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Francis Scialabba

· 5 min read

When you think of the most memorable advertising from the ’80s and ’90s, what comes to mind? We’d wager a bet that it’s a jingle—maybe dulcet tones from Stanley Steemer, promising to get your home cleaner, or a jaunty phone number sing-along for Empire Today flooring. Even Full House, the pinnacle of all things ’80s and ’90s, made a point of referencing the humble jingle: Joey has a gig penning them for an advertising firm.

Those musical ad slogans from yesteryear represent “peak marketing,” Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, the “branding guru” of TikTok, said in a video, pointing to older examples like State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” tune written by Barry Manilow in the ’70s, or songs from the mid-aughts advertising But the term itself is falling out of fashion.

“I think the word jingle means something specific; It’s that ’70s, ’80s, ’90s song that is cheesy, or at least a throwback,” Zach Pollakoff, executive producer at audio production house Heavy Duty Projects, said, while Heavy Duty’s music producer Tom Cathcart said the term “comes with baggage.”

That doesn’t mean the jingle itself is dead. Call it what you want, but branded songs have been experiencing a revival thanks to TikTok, where a brand’s custom audio can become an irresistible earworm and help it stand out.

“We create singles, not jingles,” Geoffrey Goldberg, co-founder and CCO of creative agency Movers+Shakers, which has made audio for Hasbro and made the original track for e.l.f.’s #eyeslipsface TikTok challenge, told us.

A tune by any other name

Alex Dahan, founder and CEO of influencer agency Open Influence, said when digital agencies work on branded audio, they tend to use more modern terms, like “audio branding,” instead of “jingle.” But it comes in other flavors, too. His term of choice when talking to creators? “Brand beat.”

At Hasbro, which has used audio branding and jingles for decades, any audio it uses on TikTok is referred to simply as a sound because that’s the term used on TikTok for audio tracks, explained Brian Baker, Hasbro’s VP, gaming. But the same track used on another platform might be referred to as a “custom song,” he said.

Amy Cotteleer, partner and chief experience officer at ad agency Duncan Channon, which also worked on the #eyeslipsface campaign by selecting influencers for the campaign, called the OG term “antiquated,” particularly among younger audiences.

“It’s an inside-baseball word,” she said. “It’s not what consumers are using.”

But even if the word jingle might be dead, branded audio bites are certainly not. Just open up TikTok and they’re easy to find. At the height of the sea shanty craze on the app, Sun Bum shared what it called a “sun shanty,” in a major key this time; Madewell, meanwhile, recruited the surf-punk band Nevva to sing a tune about jorts.

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“We want to create music that sounds like it’s something you would hear on the radio,” Goldberg, from Movers+Shakers, said. “It sounds like something that would be on your Spotify playlist, so there's almost this unexpected nature when you realize, ‘Oh! That it came from a brand that I happen to love too.’”

That unexpected nature is on display in some of Hasbro’s recent audio branding work, including the tune “MR. MONOPOLY,” a “custom, TikTok-first” song created with artist Blvcktmptn for its #MePlayingMonopoly campaign, Baker said. This year, the brand worked with Movers+Shakers to create a song promoting the new Twister Air game loosely inspired by the original Twister jingle from the ’90s.

Volume down

One of the main differences between more recent tunes and classic jingles is that the branding is more covert. In some cases, that means the brand isn’t even named in the lyrics. Heavy Duty wrote a custom song for Ikea using terms like “flatpack” and “Billy bookcase,” which was intended to prevent references to the brand from “being a bludgeon,” Cathcart said.

Lyrics also tend to be less focused on “buy, buy, buy,” Dahan said. Beauty brands in particular are keen on songs that are “very instructional and very literal,” Pollakoff said. Other brands are in it for the vibes. One Heavy Duty client simply requested, as he put it, a “banger.”


Modern-day jingles also differ from their 20th-century counterparts in that they’re meant to be more participatory, encouraging consumers to get involved—something that’s made easier through social media.

“It’s not just about getting stuck in your head,” Goldberg said. “It’s about building a deeper connection with consumers.”

Hasbro tracks views, engagement, and sentiment “to assess whether the song is leaving people with positive vibes or not,” Baker told us. (That “MR. MONOPOLY” song, for example, drove more than 100 million views across about 1,400 unique videos, he told us.) And while Hasbro sometimes brings sales data into the equation, driving brand relevance and sparking conversation is what often matters more.

“The ultimate testament to a song’s success is captured when you candidly hear someone humming or singing your song aloud,” Baker said. “If your song hits unprompted singing status, you’ve made it.”

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