I Can’t Get This Song Out Of My Head, And To Me It’s All About Airports

There are certain sounds, sights, and flavors that evoke travel. It wasn’t originally intended this way, but George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue means United Airlines. For years Portico’s ‘white ginger’ smell meant Hyatt Regency, though I suppose Westin’s ‘white tea’ smell is more well-known. The flavor of Tortas Frontera sandwiches is the sine qua non of Chicago O’Hare airport for me.

But maybe there’s a new competitor, because there’s a sound which bellows down the hallways at terminals in Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Las Vegas and Austin that I just cannot get out of my head.

That’s the sound of the ‘Sprinkles Cupcakes’ vending machines. I stopped by to record one in Austin recently.

They even have a loyalty program complete with elite status.

To be fair, there are many songs I can’t get out of my head. Most of them are the theme songs for shows that my daughter likes to watch. And six weeks later I still can’t shake the Russian paratrooper VDV song parody.

My association of brands with travel does influence my purchase decisions, because emotional connections matter. I’ll happily order Suntory whiskey (‘for relaxing times’) and my choice of shampoo is driven entirely through hotel exposure.

Now this Sprinkles song seems to stick and I find myself singing it to.. myself. I may have to break down and buy a cupcake at the Austin airport this week.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. If George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue means United Airlines, the theme song for American Airlines should be “They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!”

    The video and audio are here:

  2. Not that I can’t get it out of my head, but my vision of my future luxury retirement includes this song, which has been on the Park Hyatt roll for at least 6 years (my first recollection was at the PH Abu Dhabi in 2016).
    Was playing in the room the other day when I checked into PH Dubai.

  3. In ORD T1 C concourse, there’s a weird stale hot dog-ish smell that’s been around for years that I can’t figure out the source of.

  4. We all remember theme songs, it’s a feature of the human brain, which is why it’s tied to advertising. How long has it been since “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” was on a TV commercial, yet if you’re of a certain age, you know it’s Alka Seltzer? (FWIW, the damn stuff works if you’ve ever got an upset stomach from overeating.)

    That United commercial still sticks, yes. You can’t walk through O’Hare without it going off in your head.

  5. “Rhapsody in Blue” is a great piece but I came to hate it when stuck on hold with UA waiting for them to un-screw one of their screw-ups.

    That soaring crescendo would repeat about every 35 seconds.

    We all have our breaking point. For me, it was after about 40 repeats.

    PS – I think that Cupcake machine song would send me running.

  6. Frontera should expand far beyond their current footprint. Bayless could have his pick of partners to work with on both sides of the franchise.

  7. So, it’s an earworm, and you want me to play it…

    No thank you!

    Too many sci-fi horror movies start that way!

  8. I use Peter Thomas Roth hair products now because I liked it when they used to have them at Hilton properties years ago.

  9. @JorgeGeorge Paez” “Why music while vending!!??” The melody gives passengers running to their airport departure gate a welcome audible psychological distraction to follow the music using their echolocation skills to the nearest cupcake vending machine.

    To help brainwash airport passengers faster, music is used as part of
    Classical conditioning (also known as Pavlovian or respondent conditioning) is a behavioral procedure in which a biologically potent stimulation like high-calorie food like cupcakes is paired with a previously neutral stimulus like a catchy cupcake music theme. When you hear this theme, you start to salivate and stop running so you can purchase your cupcake reward.

    Passengers taking advantage of an opportunity to buy an overpriced yummy $10 cupcake using one of their airline co-branded credit cards will now feel psychologically good about receiving a bonus of ten frequent flyer miles while consuming a 2,000 calorie cupcake.

  10. I always thought the Rhapsody in Blue” piece was one of the best airline theme songs ads ever. They recently brought the campaign back at least in some markets.

    I will pass on the cupcakes. Not good for waistline.

  11. My personal favorite is Palladio – the de Beers diamond commercial song. Of course, it could just be the diamonds, too…. 🙂

  12. DeBeers may be the most Evil Genius marketing organization of all time. Turned semi-rare gravel into megabucks through pure marketing and ruthless monopoly power.

    If you want to know what diamonds are really worth, try selling them.

  13. God bless you Americans. With all the day-to-day sh*t you deal with everyday, I’m always reminded how good (!) you have it in your country.

  14. OMG….” I love sprinkles”…..I think your daughter will be singing that!

  15. @mike I also became familiar with Peter Thomas Roth products via the toiletries that Hilton hotels provided in the past. I’ve been using several of their skincare items for several years now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.