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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Love, Loss and Advertising: What Hit Songs Reveal About Smart Marketing

hit song, jingle
By analyzing hit songs, researchers have identified key themes that resonate with consumers. / Credit: Vintage record image via Shutterstock

Cranking up some Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Jay Z or Alicia Keys can teach you a lot about how to best advertise your business, new research suggests.

After analyzing 50 years' worth of hit songs, researchers at North Carolina State University identified 12 key themes that marketing professionals can use to craft advertisements that will resonate with consumers.

"Our work shows that there is a limited range of widely accepted themes that get at the heart of human experience and resonate with a large and diverse population of consumers," said David Henard, a professor of marketing at N.C. State and lead author of the study. "We're not saying that every marketing effort should center on one or more of these themes, but the implication is that efforts incorporating these themes will be more successful than efforts that don't."

The researchers began by compiling a list of every song that hit number one on Billboard magazine's "Hot 100" song list between 1960 and 2009. The tracks ranged from "El Paso" by Marty Robbins, which hit number one in 1960, to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, which reached the top spot in 2009. After compiling the list, the researchers used computer programs to run a textual analysis of the songs' lyrics, then analyzed the results to identify key topics.

Study authors identified 12 key themes, and related terms, that came up most often in the hit songs: loss, desire, aspiration, breakup, pain, inspiration, nostalgia, rebellion, jadedness, desperation, escapism and confusion.

Henard said the themes overwhelmingly reflect emotional content, rather than rational content.

"It reinforces the idea that communications centered on emotional themes will have mass-audience appeal," he said. "Hit songs reflect what consumers respond to, and that's information that advertisers can use to craft messages that will capture people's attention."

The study, co-authored by N.C. State assistant professor Christian Rossetti, is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Advertising Research.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.