Cartoon Theme Songs and Brand Awareness
Every December in my English Composition class, just before we break for the holidays, I use a YouTube video titled “80’s Cartoon Intro Overload!” to conclude a conversation about toy consumption and its effect on children. I love this video, and though most of my students now are children of the 90s and experienced very few of these cartoons (even as reruns), they get a kick out of it too.
I bring up this video today because I can’t get the theme song to M.A.S.K. out of my head and I want to make a point about cartoon theme songs and brand awareness.
Here’s my thought: companies struggling to establish strong, unforgettable brands should dig up the names of 1980s cartoon theme song composers, pay those motherfuckers six-figure salaries, and let them go to town on the marketing department. Because, let me tell you, there is no stronger and more invincible an earworm in the universe than a cartoon intro.
It’s been twenty-five years since I’ve seen an episode of M.A.S.K., but all it takes is for a hint of the melody or a line of the lyrics to pass through the crowded intersection of my mind and I’m suddenly remembering all of the essential details about the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand and their nefarious antagonists, V.E.N.O.M. All it takes is that theme song for me to remember walking the aisles of the hardware store next to Child World with my brand new action figure. That’s all it takes for me to start wondering if that figure is still tucked away in my closet somewhere.
The trouble, I suppose, is that the impression M.A.S.K.‘s theme song’s composer left on me is essentially useless. That’s not his or her fault, though. The composer did the composer’s job and buried that song deep into my brain. The fact that the show failed despite this infectious song is only evidence that the people behind the product have to be equal to the geniuses behind the marketing, or else it’s all for naught.
But consider this: if M.A.S.K. were still around today, it would probably have just as much of a chance at making me open my wallet as another shitty Transformers remake would. That’s how powerful these theme songs were. All it took to deliver the product’s value proposition was thirty seconds of animation and a catchy tune. I think that all of us who are out there marketing things nowadays could stand to revisit the unforgettable Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons of our youth.