TikTok is providing an opportunity for brands to work around licensing fees and gain more control over their sounds. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Chevrolet have already enlisted creators to make original music in a new genre of audio branding.
One example is Pizza Hut who recently took this approach when it partnered with musician Jon Moss, who has over 6 million followers on TikTok. Moss, who worked with the brand previously, created a “Pizza Hut Anthem” for the chain’s Detroit-style pizza, and the song was released on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.
It’s also another excuse for permanent content with wider reach. “Launching the song on all major streaming services makes it feel more official and more permanent,” Lindsay Morgan, Pizza Hut’s chief marketing officer, wrote in an email. “With it being the first anthem we’ve created for a specific product, we wanted it to feel special.”
Why this sudden change of approach? In the past, many brands spent months coming up with a catchy jingle and then investing in media buys to have that song embedded in the public consciousness by repetition. But today, social media audio moves too quickly, attention spans are too short and consumers are always looking for fresh content.
Furthermore, many jingles are also too short to work on TikTok, and already have an association with a specific ad. Songs made by creators don’t always have a clear tie to a brand, making them easier to possibly be more widely adopted. “Traditional jingles on television or even YouTube were interruptions in your viewing experience,” Michael Elenterio, senior strategist at R/GA, wrote in an email. “But TikTok audio flows organically into the average user experience on the ‘For You’ page causing less dissonance for listeners.”
A TikTok approach is also more cost effective and a less complicated process for brands compared to finding licensed music. Licensing an original song is expensive because brands need two licences: The first is the rights to the composition, known as a synchronisation licence, and the other is for the original song recording, known as the master use licence. This often results in brands resorting to royalty-free instrumental music, or just using voice overs in videos.
When asked how making an original song impacts music rights, Pizza Hut’s Morgan wrote, “It definitely simplifies the process.”
I think it’s also important to focus on the ‘wider reach’ element of sourcing brand music via TikTok creators. “Brands are looking to connect with consumers outside of the traditional product,” said Eric Sheinkop, CEO of the Desire Company, a platform that lets users take classes or see product reviews by industry experts. “But sonic identity is more science than art, so it’s interesting to see them trying out these original songs. I’m not sure that they’ll stick long-term.”
Volvo recently enlisted Andrew Huang, a partially-deaf YouTuber with over 2 million subscribers, to make a beat using vehicle sounds from the brand’s new hybrid vehicle in an effort to appeal to younger consumers. Chevy Canada took a similar approach, working with Canadian creator Tiagz to make a beat using the Chevy EV Bolt. The video received over 2 million views on Chevy Canada’s TikTok and 21 million views on Tiagz’s profile.
“Creators are a mix of ideation, media, production and this ‘X factor of trust,” said Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at Mekanism. “When they do something, their audience pays attention.”