Corporate anthems are nothing new. In fact, there’s more of them than you probably realize.
But to see the whole picture, we must go back to the era of the “company man”. Back then, a corporation was as much a caretaker as an employer. Companies would provide a pension and perhaps also a stipend for widows. The employee would, in turn, give his lifelong allegiance.
In more recent times, the corporate anthem became most commonly associated with 1980s Japanese corporate culture. This gruelling era — having given rise to the term karoshi for “death by overworking” — led employees to unquestioning loyalty, utmost dedication and devotion to employers.
According to a 1985 research paper on the psychological impact of Japanese company songs on employees, it was not uncommon to see “plant workers as well as office employees start their day with the company song, exercise with it during the short mid-day recess, and even finish their work with the company song.”
After so many global economic crises, one would think that cynicism about capitalism and job security would have sent the corporate anthem to the scrapyard of history. There may be very few companies to start their day with a merry song, but a surprising number of modern-day corporations still keep commissioning company songs.
All ears? We’ve rounded up some of the most powerful corporate anthems from across the globe. Let’s hear and see what these songs are like!
1. KPMG International
The accounting behemoth KPMG didn’t have to do much to make their song go viral in 2001. Praising its ultimate potency, the soulful power ballad Global Strategy was a curious attempt at ‘aural branding’ that led to several parodic covers of the anthem.
More than a decade later, KPMG came with a far more appealing monumental orchestra piece One Firm Anthem. Watch out for the persuasive commentary that’s just too hard to resist.
We can see ourselves as soloists, or, we can imagine the possibilities when we all perform as one.
We create, we innovate / We pass the ones that are late.
The 2005 Starbucks awards ceremony did the best to make it clear that writing a name on a coffee cup is no easy job. Performed on the conference by Jefferson Starbucks, a band that starred a number of company’s high up executives, We Built This Starbucks will make you understand what it took to construct a coffee takeaway spot in your neigborhood.
Knee-deep in the mocha, making coffee right / So many partners, working late at night.
We Are Apple (Leading the Way) was first used during the Macintosh rollout in January 1984. The song was supposed to act as a bit of a diversion between product announcements and energise the audience before the arrival of the new line of Lisa computer systems.
However, we can comfortably imagine having it introduce every keynote conference or as a quirky iPhone ringtone.
And now look ahead / with the dreams yet to come / lifting our goals to the sky.
Ah, Fujitsu! Tomorrow is our goal! is a solid corporate song — big budget, where no expense has been spared, from the detailed orchestration to the captivating voice of one of Japan’s best-loved jazz singers, Martha Miyake.
Let’s make a bond from heart to heart throughout human race / An unseen power, now in our grasp, can even conquer space.
Whether you believe it or not, Thank You Facebook Song is just an earnest tribute to a corporation whose mission is to foster meaningful connection around the globe. Its makers claim they spent “very little money on the video because nearly everyone involved donated their time, energy and services to the project.”
Show Photos of who we know and what makes us happy / I’m taggin’ you, you’re taggin’ me and we’re makin’ history, yeah!
6. Ernst & Young
The accounting firm chose a different path and came up with a gospel cover of Edwin Hawkins Singers’ Oh, Happy Day. Like the original, Ernst & Young’s Oh, Happy Day brims with happiness and enthusiasm that was undeniably present during the company’s Recruitment Days back in 2011.
And if you haven’t had enough of the corporate happiness, don’t forget to check out another accounting hit of theirs titled EY EY Ernst & Young.
When Ernst & Young / Showed me a better way / Oh yes it was a happy day!
Knowledge, proactive, entrepreneurial, continuous improvement!
As it happens, PriceWaterhouseCoopers didn’t leave anything up to chance and came up with Downright Global, a groovy rap that stems from the deepest roots of street music.
On the other hand, Your Worlds Our People is a sweet, emotional tune with the goal to spread the gospel to every corner of the world. Hallelujah!
Innovation, imagination / Fascination, total global integration / PriceWaterhouseCoopers, PWC!
PriceWaterhouseCoopers sounding like a band / we don’t sell no dogma / What we’ve got is skill
8. McKinsey & Company
The consulting firm goes Bollywood in saluting itself in a There is a Dream masterpiece. Or rather an Asian nightmare? We’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Anyway, be careful with this song. Chances are Martin Luther King’s turning in his grave when he hears it.
Na na naaaa na ni na-na-na ni na-na-na ni na. / Na na naaaa na ni na-na-na ni na-na-na ni na.
Thought combining antivirus technology with motivational soul music was impossible? Symantec proves you wrong!
In Revolution, the computer security giant daringly eschews traditional scansion in favour of a looser, freer meter and does so with a style of its own.
Symantec revolution / We’re givin’ ya sweet solutions.
10. Silicon Graphics
Not enough dreams? And what about the one about CPUs and crossbar switches?
No, we’re not kidding. The Octane workstation deserved a song. So Silicon Graphics, the manufacturer of high-end workstations, enlisted an ethereal female voice to belt out a power ballad I Have a Dream. No royalties paid to the King family, of course.
I have a dream and it’s two CPU’s / What this will mean, is no more desktop blues.
11. Nixon Peabody
Created in celebration of Nixon Peabody’s Fortune 100 ‘Best Places to Work’ recognition and meant for internal use only, the cheesy 80s-styled party jam rip off Everybody’s A Winner At Nixon Peabody is sure to get you up and dancing as soon as you hear that Tina Turner kick off the celebration.
The best to work with / the best to work for / that’s all we ever ever want to be.
OK, let’s now shake off all you think of contemporary corporate anthems and time travel a bit to see what it was originally like to sing a song about your company.
Back in the days — in the first half of the 20th century — corporate songs were meant to be sung on daily basis and with all solemnity. And that’s what was happening at the beginnings of IBM:
“For 37 years, the gatherings and conventions of our IBM workers have expressed in happy songs the fine spirit of loyal cooperation of good fellowship which has promoted the signal success of our great IBM Corporation in its truly International Service for the betterment of business and benefit to mankind.”
And then Harry Evans, a man who “loved to sing and enjoyed setting his own lyrics to popular songs” took it to another level in 1925. His love for singing was so contagious that he literally made the whole IBM sing:
“If Watson sang, IBM would sing. As with the dress code, Watson did not order IBM to sing. That bit of corporate culture started with Harry Evans. Outgoing, attention-seeking, good-natured, wired with energy and shorter than every other man in the room, Evans was always the guy with a joke, or the guy willing to laugh at a joke. Watson liked him and promoted him.”
The IBM songbook
Evans went on to print a booklet of his IBM songs to make it easier for the employees to sing them at company sales conventions and other gatherings. The songbook, a thin paperback volume of 54 pages, entitled Songs of the IBM – Fellowship Songs of International Business Machines Corporation served as a bible that packed all company songs.
The songbook included masterpieces such as “March On With IBM”, “To Our I.B.M. Girls” or “Our President’s Motto: THINK”. If you want to get a gist of what the music sounded like, check out a tinny recording of Ever Onwards and Hail to the IBM.
Ever onward – Ever onward! / We’re bound for the top to never fall! / Right here and now we thankfully / Pledge sincerest loyalty / To the corporation that’s the best of all!
Your ties of friendship cannot sever / Your glory time will never stem / We will toast a name that lives forever / Hail to the IBM!
13. Bonus track: The Gazprom Song
Listen up, folks! Here’s a real treat. A hidden treasure from the depths of the Internet.
Check out this catchy tune about Gazprom, the Russian energy giant and — as this song makes quite clear — something of a national saviour. Infused with authentic Russian style, this feel-good anthem was composed and performed by Vladimir Tumayev, director of a Gazprom’s subsidiary called Spetsgazavtotrans. Cheers!
Let’s drink to you, let’s drink to us / Let’s drink to all the Russian gas / For those extracting the new sun / From down beneath the ground.
Worst corporate anthems? There’s more of them
Wow. That was quite a ride, to say the least!
The festival of the unique genre of corporate music is coming to a close. But don’t get me wrong. There are many more undiscovered gems that this article couldn’t hold.
Anything can happen, really. You can get fired (or a pay rise), screw up (or finish) a demanding project. So whatever your career stage, there’s always a reason to sing or dance your heart out for something that truly matters to you.
Just don’t miss. You’re sure going to have a blast!