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Bringing Back The ’90s: Music Sampling and Branding Familiarity
By: Corinne MacInnes
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Novelty, uniqueness, originality — so often this is the mantra of advertisers and marketing specialists. Jaded audiences and contemporary media distribution make offering new branding ideas an increasingly difficult feat. The answer to this problem has been at creators’ fingertips for decades. It’s called branding familiarity.
 
To put it simply, branding familiarity repurposes previously produced materials. It might sound like copying others’ hard work, but real branding familiarity uses repurposed materials in a completely original way. Not only does this method steer clear of copyright infringement, it can reach audiences in an very intimate way.
 
For example, you hear a song on the radio, and it seems pleasantly familiar. You feel you’ve heard it before, but it’s a brand new release. You look up the song and discover it uses samples of one of your mom’s favorite David Bowie songs. Even before knowing this, you’ve instantly enjoyed the song as a whole because of your familiarity with its parts.
 
Some of the most successful artists today use music sampling on a regular basis. Some well-known examples include Lady Gaga’s 2008 song “Poker Face,” which uses a sample beat from Boney M.’s song “Ma Baker” released in 1977. Fall Out Boy’s 2013 single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” subtly uses samples from Van Halen’s “On Fire” released in 1978.
 
Music sampling began to reach fruition in the ’90s, when new MCs and DJs regularly used repurposed sound bits. A famous example of sampling from the ’90s is Vanilla Ice’s reuse of the base beat from Queen’s and Bowie’s 1981 “Under Pressure”  for “Ice Ice Baby.”
 
Branding familiarity works visually too, and is especially used in fashion trends today. Some of your favorite clothes (and songs) probably carry a memory or copy someone else’s image. Groups like Little Mix use a combination of image and sound brand familiarity from the ’90s in their 2012 song “How Ya Doin’?” ft. Missy Elliot.

While there’s nothing wrong with keeping an open mind to novel ideas, the success of these artists and trends reveals that the power of branding familiarity can always work in your favor if done with the right flair.


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About the Author

Corinne MacInnes grew up in Albion, MI. She attended Kalamazoo College and graduated in 2015 with a B.F.A. and concentrations in Spanish, English, and Art History under her belt. Today she works from Chicago doing freelance writing, creative writing, and event planning

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