Business Management

Have Awful Tech Anthems Finally Died a Death?

“Watch this: RIM's disastrously bad music video aimed at developers” ran the Verge’s headline back at the end of September 2012. Whilst PC Magazine asked: “Did RIM just screen the worst corporate music video ever?”

The video, which had extremely high production values and offered a cover of REO Speedwagon's “Keep On Loving You” was created to thank developers supporting the BlackBerry platform. It featured all kinds of senior executives and included lyrics such as: "We're going to keep on loving you / Our updated SDK is really cool”.

Whilst the media backlash may have been fairly unforgiving, less than month after release the YouTube video (which has subsequently been taken down) had achieved 366,934 views, over 3,000 likes, and only 1,721 dislikes. And as the New York Times blog tactfully put it: “based on comments posted to YouTube, reaction to the musical tribute might best be described as polarising”.

For anyone anxious to have a listen, a new version was uploaded this January and now the media fuss has fizzled out it has achieved a mere 244 views.

Interestingly, over the decades there have been quite a few corporate anthems. Daemon Poeter, from PC Magazine concluded that despite BlackBerry’s effort, “Bank of America's ‘One’ is still the worst corporate song remake in existence, but only by just a little bit”.

Yet both these seemed to be more “popular” than Microsoft’s effort, which saw the corporation hire Bruce Springsteen to sing the praises of Vista's SP1 release in 2008.  The YouTube page for this is still active, has had more than a million hits to date but registers 3,051 dislikes to 1,132 likes. As one comment underneath runs: “So glad that I don't work at a place that produces these sorts of things…”

Well, these anthems certainly get a reaction. In 2011, the Guardian presented a scathing top five of the worst. This put Symantec in third place with its motivational soul music/anti-virus technology hybrid: "We got you personal firewalls/Security is where we stand tall." 

In second place, it picked Ernst & Young’s cover of Edwin Hawkins Singers' “Oh Happy Day”, whilst the gold award was presented to McKinsey’s “There is a Dream”. This featured the notable lines "There is a dream, a dream that's ours: we're gonna be the best R&R in the world".

What possesses companies to produce these things? They invariably present a bizarre blend of the extreme naffness of the Ovaltineys (club and song for children who drank Ovaltine), with just a touch of the disturbing brain washing of previous political organisations. “Artek - the Soviet Holiday Camp” is a fascinating example of this, explored by BBC World Service on 3rd July.

Told through the eyes of Kim Espeland who attended in the 1980s, this set the narrators’ views on the place now as an adult, against her view then, as a child. It also featured plenty of renditions of the motivational anthem… intended to ensure everyone loved the place and stayed faithful to communism.

The truth is few companies have the panache or the credence to pull off this kind of stuff off. To get away with an anthem, the music itself has to be supremely, mesmerizingly good in its own right - the type of pieces wealthy patrons commissioned musicians to craft in the past, such as the four-part coronation anthem for George II, written by Handel. No rubbish parody is going to stretch the distance.

There is another option of course. If it is not good, it can be funny. In which case nicking somebody else’s song and flipping the words is absolutely fine. However, unless your PR is so ahead of the curve it stretches to poking fun at the company, it all seems a bit unlikely really…

Never mind. I’m still looking forward to the day Mark Zuckerberg sings his own little privacy skit. It wouldn’t have to big or clever. He could just pick a Beatles tune and run with the line: “All your data…” or anything really. He’d definitely get millions of YouTube hits.


Kathryn Cave is Editor at IDG Connect


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