Make Them Sing Your Name

Ned Wilkinson and Jay Nicholson have made a career of embedding business messages in 417-landers’ skulls through jingles and sonic branding. Here’s how they do it and how you might help your business reach official earworm status.

By Matt Lemmon | Photo courtesy Money Music Incorporated

May 2016

Jay Nicholson has been a believer in music since the beginning of his advertising career. A graphic designer and early advertising employee at Noble and Associates, he began The Nicholson Agency in the 1980s. And his belief in music was taken to the next level when he partnered on a new venture, Money Music, with Berklee College of Music graduate Ned Wilkinson, one third of 417-land’s famous Nick, Ruell and Ned

In addition to his musical and theater prowess—a pursuit that recently relocated him to the Orlando area—Wilkinson is an advertising genius. “He understands music and its roots and compositions, but he has an uncanny ability to apply it all to a message,” Nicholson says.

Combined with Nicholson’s own advertising connections—particularly in the radio industry—the partnership proved potent. Nicholson shared some steps that Money Music follows to ensure clients find the right message.

Step 1: The Client needs analysis

The very first step with new clients is to sit down with them one-on-one and figure out what’s in their heart and what they want to achieve. Then, the team puts together a 100-percent original jingle and performs it live—either in person or, increasingly, via Skype—in front of the clients.

Step 2: Know your audience and customer

Sounds and styles vary greatly from market to market and state to state, and Money Music serves clients all over the country. Nicholson says it’s important to understand who your business is trying to reach and what listeners like. Conversely, there are types of broadcast-safe music that appeal to most subsets, as well as businesses (like department stores) that don’t have much of a niche. Often a middle-of-the-road, pleasing sound is called for. 

Step 3: Consistency, consistency, consistency

A jingle is more than a one-off thing. It can serve as the bedrock of identification for an entire business… even a big one (ask Oh-Oh-Oh-O’Reilly). “It’s a red thread of continuity,” Nicholson says. “It’s a great platform to grow on, using a consistent musical message.” Testimonials, Nicholson says, include business owners who have people, even young children, walk in singing their jingle word-for-word.

Step 4: Find what’s special and stress it

One of Nicholson’s favorite client stories grew from a particularly difficult cafe owner in Nebraska who only offered up the cafe's hours—4 a.m. to 4 p.m.—as a defining fact of the business. Nicholson and Wilkinson played that up, and soon kids from a nearby college were frequenting the restaurant in the wee hours, fresh out of their parties.