The Challenge

Radio Centre conducted a wide-ranging project in order to aid advertisers in choosing music to match with brand communications. The purpose of this was to get the industry to think more strategically about music. Decisions about music tend to be made subjectively on the basis of likeability or perceived popularity of the song, not on the basis of strategic fit. Semiotics was designed to help to determine how we can attribute meaning to music more objectively through conceptualizing it semiotically.

Semiotic Role

Neuroscience and qual showed that strategic use of music boosted ad effectiveness. The task for semiotics was to show how music could conveyed specific brand values taken from a list of the 24 most commonly brand descriptors from ad creative briefs. We need to match each word (Confidence, or Dynamic) with 6 songs. This entailed an extensive literature review, working with a team of musicologists to look at the properties of sound to determine the different ways in which music has meaning.


Semiotics helped bring structure and order to the complex world of musical meaning. The Creative Semiotics team devised a meaning framework of 6 parameters to help guide selection of music. The Brand Music Navigator tool is available online and has gained traction with planners and others working to select the right kind of music for creative work. The project was shortlisted for a Media Week Award.