101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Jill Baskin

CMO Hershey Company


“It’s important that you think about sound and to your point; you must have an appreciation; Sound can’t just be slapped on. It needs to have a defined role, a strategic reason for being used.”


 Jill Baskin, CMO Hershey Company



Jill Baskin is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Hershey Company.
A marketing genius at heart, Ms. Baskin’s in-depth expertise has seen her land in high-profile lists, such as the Top 25 CMOs in the World list. Prior to joining The Hershey Company, Ms. Baskin was the VP of Global Brand Strategy and Communications for Mondelēz International, where her creative excellence transformed famous global brands such as Oreo, Honey Maid, Club Social, Cadbury, Trident, TUC and many others.

Uli Reese: Tell me about your role as CMO of The Hershey Company?

Jill Baskin:
Different CMO rules have different groups reporting into them, but ours is very communication-based. We have an in-house agency that was created in the time that I’ve been here, and we have media and design reporting into the structure.

Reese: Looking back over your career, how important has sonic been in terms of brand building?

It’s funny because I thought I hadn’t done much in the area of sound, but I now realise that isn’t entirely true. When I was a brand-new AE, I had two really formative experiences at Leo Burnett; I worked on the United Airlines account and the two brilliant creative directors Greg Taubeneck, and Bud Watts called the account team into their office, and Greg pulled out a vinyl record that he’d got from the local library – that’s how long ago it was. He put it on and said this is going to be the new advertising for United Airlines. It was Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin. That was in 1980, and it’s still being used. It was right at that moment when airlines had been deregulated, and United needed to go after business travellers. We also had a campaign running where we told stories on radio and used the actor Gene Hackman. This was before actors were commonly used for advertising, so these were two formative experiences where I really learned about the power of sound.

Reese: What do you think about the dominance of audio now, and where do you think it’s going?

Jill: We haven’t used audio that much at Hershey partially because the screenless ecosystem you’re talking about is irrelevant to us. Alexa is not an impulse purchase medium, but Amazon online is, so when you’re making a grocery list and shopping on Amazon then it becomes more important. People don’t tend to use Alexa and say, ‘Add Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to my order’. It’s just not a habit, but maybe it will be in the future. Right now, a visual cue is more effective. For instance, when I joined the company, they were showing the Reese’s cups as a whole cup. It was computer-generated imagery, and I changed it to a photograph of the cup with a bite taken out of it. Everyone said, ‘That’ll look too messy’ and I actually had to do a shoot to show them how attractive it could be and it increased our sales dramatically. That visual cue for a product like candy, where you almost need to be just a little naughty to buy it, is so strong. Maybe there’s an auditory cue for that, but visual is so strong I haven’t had to. Music that tracks behind some of the advertising has brought a certain relevance to the work; a Kraft campaign is still running to this day, and it’s 11 or 12 years old now. We used the song Spreading a Little Love by Life Size Humans for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and it’s still running. It just feels so right and provided a really strong for the cue for the brand. 

Reese: A study says that 70% of Gen Z don’t look at a track a brand uses instead, they look at how a brand deals with music, or how authentic they are…

It feels the same way with voiceovers too. Mercedes-Benz uses Jon Hamm’s voice – and he has a lovely voice and is a good storyteller – but to me, there is no connection between those two. On the other hand Ving Rhames for Arby’s saying ‘We have the meats’, is just so perfectly done and the most authentic connection of human uttering a line. That, to me, is where you’ve gotten your money’s worth using a celebrity.

Reese: Pop culture is often used as a placeholder in lieu of a better decision-making process. Does that resonate with you?

It does, and it doesn’t. On one hand, Rhapsody in Blue was not an expensive piece of music, and it wasn’t a popular piece of music, but it fit the campaign. Same with Spread a Little Love. I think when you make that argument in a boardroom, it works. What doesn’t work is a board that hasn’t been thought through. We’re working on a campaign right now that I think is a really interesting idea which is a love song that translates the relationship between parent and child for Hershey Kisses. So thinking about famous love songs and there was one that spoke to me when my first child was young, which was Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. I remember looking at the baby and thinking exactly that. It’s a love song – and wasn’t meant as romantic love – but it felt like the right thing in regard to my child. It’s so simple, and it so perfectly matches. To me, selling two or three songs like that is a sales job, and I will lay it back on the agency to prove the worth of the song.

“It’s important that you think about sound and to your point; you must have an appreciation; Sound can’t just be slapped on. It needs to have a defined role, a strategic reason for being used.”

Reese: Should there be a shareable sonic brand book?

It makes sense. I live and die by my visual identities, and we’re very strict with them at Hershey, so that makes all the sense in the world to me. However, I’m mostly annoyed by sonic identities as a consumer. To me, it should be entertaining and something that I am happy to hear that reminds me of the brand. It almost feels in this day and age, that they put a chip in my head with these little three notes. Right now, one that I do love is Cruisin’ the Smoky Robinson track for Allstate Drivewise about smooth driving. Every time I hear it, it makes me smile.

Reese: The three-second mnemonic it’s an old idea now. There is no best practice case although, I cite James Bond as an example of a benchmark for sonic that can be identified in two seconds…

That’s what I’m talking about. As a client, I found that working with people who understand the music is important. I come from a musical family – my dad’s a musician – so I know how important it is. Mcgarrybowen has put a lot of money into their music department, and having people involved who are musicians and who also love music. It’s important that you think about sound and to your point; you must have an appreciation, you can’t just slap it on. You must understand how it works.

Reese: Do you see sonic branding as something The Hershey Company may embrace further moving forward?

We touched on it a little bit earlier but sometimes having sounds  associated with your brand are hard. We have a Kit Kat jingle, ‘Give me a break’, from the sixties that has bedevilled us. We’ve tried to update it, but people love it. It’s meaningful to them, and it holds a place in their lives. Getting rid of something like that is hard. You have to know when to keep it and when to get rid of it.

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