Musical memory is extremely powerful – we learn the alphabet through song, and recite our times tables to a tune. A song can remind of us a favourite film, instantly transport us back in time, or even instantly trigger ideas of a particular brand – and we’re taking a look at exactly why music restores memories like no other medium.
Recently, 6 Music partnered with renowned neuropsychologist Dr Catherine Loveday to create the Plink Test, which plays just the first second of 20 popular songs – including The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Think’ and Prince’s ‘Sign o The Times’. There’s no chorus or even a lyric heard, but they’re still instantly recognisable from this minimal amount of play time. It really does prove the power of musical memory, as we recall the artist and song title with such little information.
So how does the human brain react and remember a song in just a second? As Dr Loveday explains, our ability to recall music is down to what’s known as a reminiscence bump. Put simply, memory is strongest in our formative years – between our late teens and early 20s – when we’re shaping our identities, and often listening to our favourite songs over and over. Music forms a key part of who we are, so it’s no surprise we can remember the songs we listened to at the time, and why they invoke strong emotions in us now. While we create memories later on Iife too, they’re just not as encouraged as they are during this part of our lives.
It’s an idea many brands have capitalised on, using iconic songs in their most classic adverts. Take Levis Jeans, for example, who chose Marvin Gaye’s ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ for their famous 1985 ad; or Apple, who used Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ in their 2003 iPod campaign. And who could forget Guinness playing Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’ in thier legendary 1999 Surfer ad? In just a second, we can recognise these songs, and such is the renown of the campaign that we instantly link them to the companies they promote. This proves music is an essential tool for boosting brand image.
While it may be recognisable, existing music always has the drawback of attached preconception – but with new, exclusive music on-hold, listeners can make their own memories, all based on their perception of the company. Music allows creates a professional brand identity for a client – slow, peaceful tunes leave the caller feeling calm and at ease; upbeat, poppy sounds deliver a welcome, friendly approach. And by producing an exclusive piece that’s truly unique to a business, it becomes recognisable in listeners’ minds – delivering instant recall of the company. And in the wonderful world of marketing, this is the most desirable result of all.