Class notes: How-to

How to write an effective jingle

Craig Israel, BA ’56, President, Del Mar Music Group

Illustration of a woman shopping with music notes surrounding her.

Illustration by Kailey Whitman

Interview by Michael Flatt


If you’ve ever caught yourself humming a tune from a commercial, then you know the power of the jingle. The right combination of words and melody can take a company’s message and imprint it deep in the listener’s memory. As the motto for Craig Israel’s company, Del Mar Music Group, states: “Cause you can’t hum a newspaper ad.”

Del Mar, located in San Diego, Calif., has helped a lot of organizations get people humming their tune, from Air New Zealand to the Miami Heat. While Israel’s primary role at Del Mar is to find clients, he knows an effective jingle when he hears one. A violinist and singer earlier in his life, he says that a good tune evokes an emotional response, just like a good ad.

“Some jingles have gone on for 25, 30 years,” Israel says. “We may hate them, but obviously if they’re running that long, a client is getting a response to them.”

We asked Israel how to create a jingle that can break through the clutter.

How to write an effective jingle:

Get to know your client
Once we get a client, we try to find out who they are and who they’re trying to reach. We ask them, what are some of your strengths? What makes you different from the competition? If they have a slogan, we’ll want to emphasize it in the lyrics.

Anticipate your audience
You have to develop a sense of who is going to hear the ad. The musical taste and worldview of a Midwesterner are likely going to be different from those of the people in Buffalo or San Diego.

Make your own music
We don’t use songs by popular artists, and we’re not making a song to go on the hit parade. We’re making a piece of marketing music to make people want to know more about that business. You have to do that yourself.

Be evocative
Everything that we buy, whether it’s a pack of gum or a ticket for a cruise, always comes down to emotion. Words and music are nothing but color and emotion and feeling. If we’re dealing with a motorcycle dealer, they’re selling power and sex and wind and noise and freedom, and we want to call up those feelings in a listener.

Give it time
Often we have a client who worries that the spot has been playing for three weeks and their phone hasn’t rung. In this attention-deficit world, you have to let things build. It takes time for marketing music to penetrate in the midst of so much competition.