Product placements are typically associated with the conspicuous display of a brand in a movie (e.g., BMW car chase in a James Bond movie) or on a television show (e.g., Jerry Seinfeld drinking a can of Coke on his famous sitcom). A more recent and growing form of product placements is the use of brand mentions in song lyrics (the Kluger Agency
specializes in this form of promotion). I have argued elsewhere (Saad, 2007; Saad, 2011a; Saad, 2011b) that songs can at times serve as a form of lekking behavior. Specifically, a lek
is a physical space where typically males of the species in question congregate to engage in various forms of sexual signaling. The females stand at the lek's periphery with the goal of choosing the optimal male.
How are song lyrics a form of lekking behavior? Well, roughly 90% of songs deal with mating. More specifically, men and women sing about attributes that they are willing to offer and/or attributes that they desire in the mating arena. Not surprisingly from an evolutionary perspective, men sing about their social status and/or their financial resources, given that women possess a universal preference for high-status men (or men who have the capacity to ascend the social hierarchy, e.g., a poor man who is otherwise ambitious and intelligent). On a related note, see one of my earlier posts here regarding the evolutionary roots of a ubiquitous behavior that male rappers display in music videos.
Returning to song lyrics, a consulting firm (Agency Inc.) recorded brand mentions in Billboard songs between 2003 and 2005. Congruent with an evolutionary perspective, male singers uttered the majority of brand mentions, these being largely confined to high-status luxury items. Specifically, more than half of the most frequent mentions were of luxury cars (e.g., Bentley, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lexus, Maybach, Mercedes, Porsche Range Rover, and Rolls Royce). See one of my earlier posts here wherein I discussed one of my recent studies (with John Vongas) on the effect of driving a Porsche on men's testosterone levels. The second most frequent category was clothing and related accoutrements, the great majority of which corresponded to luxury brand names (e.g., Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik, and Rolex). Alcoholic beverages constituted the third most popular product category, the great majority of which were expensive drinks (e.g., Cristal and Dom Perignon). Guns comprised the fourth most popular category (e.g., Beretta and AK-47), as these signal a man's potential ruthlessness (when dealing with intra-sexual rivals).
The bottom line is that song lyrics are one of many cultural products whose contents can be analyzed as a means of better understanding our biological-based human nature.
Gad Saad (2007). The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption. Mahwah, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Gad Saad (2011a). The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Gad Saad, (2011b). Songs lyrics as windows to our evolved human nature. In Alice Andrews and Joseph Carroll (Eds.), The Evolutionary Review: Art, Science, Culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
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