Music is an integral part of the human experience. We have created and enjoyed music for thousands of years, and scientific research has shown that music can have a strong impact on our memory, mood, and behavior in nearly every part of our lives. This includes shopping choices and behaviors.

It is important for business owners to understand how the presence of music in your stores, advertising, and other aspects of your brand can change how different demographics perceive your brand and make choices related to your goods and services. The right music can draw customers to your business, and the wrong music can turn them away.

What Should Be Considered in Your Brand Soundtrack?

There are three dimensions that should be taken into account when you consider music for your brand.

  1. Fit: Does the music you selected fit with how you want to present your brand? For example, energetic music will work better with a gym than a spa. Lyrics can certainly impact how your patrons view your business, but the tone, tempo, and composition have a substantial, subconscious effect on how your business is perceived.Picking music for your store or advertising that matches your brand identity can improve customers’ ability to remember your establishment through their emotional attachment. The subconscious effect of music is called the “halo effect,” in which sound and other cues like smell and lighting are not assessed separately, but collectively as one experience.
  2. Function: Sound has a huge impact on the pleasure center of the brain along with its stress-regulation ability. People listening to energetic music will want to move more because they experience an increase in arousal mechanisms in their brain and body. Soothing music can slow breathing and heart rate as well as lower blood pressure.Do you want your patrons to feel more relaxed in your space? Or, should they move faster and feel more excited? This is tied into your brand and the products or services you offer.
  3. Semantics: This refers to the deeper meaning and purpose of specific song choices. For example, Coca-Cola has included the hiss from opening a can in its advertising jingles for a long time. Certain keys or harmonies are associated with certain emotional experiences in the western world, so this can be used when you create a playlist for your business or have a company design music for your advertising.

It is best, for the most part, to align your background music and your advertising jingles with your brand. However, you can intentionally create dissonance between some musical choices and your brand. For example, if you need an in-store announcement to stand out, you can start with a brief musical clip that is higher energy than the relaxing and meditative sounds you have been using. This will grab your customers’ attention without detracting from the overall feel of your store.

One way to approach music associated with your brand is intentional “audio branding,” a term coined in the 1980s. While few businesses use jingles with catchy lyrics anymore, choosing the right song from a band or hiring a company to create appropriate background music for you can be very important to the overall image of your business.

There are many benefits of intentional audio branding.

  • Increased brand recognition and loyalty
  • Coherent communication to your patrons
  • Increased impact of visual communication like TV ads
  • Differentiation from other brands
  • Better recall of your brand

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How Music Works to Reflect Your Brand Personality

Several studies have followed the role of music associated with brands, from jingles to modern use of background music or prerecorded pop artists’ tracks. For example, a 1989 study found that early advertising jingles were used to soften the spoken sales pitch, making the ad less intrusive and more emotionally pleasing while also engaging the listener.

The study found that, when advertising tunes were in the foreground, they could become more effective with:

  • Entertainment
  • Memorability
  • Structure/continuity
  • Targeting
  • Lyrical language
  • Establishing authority

An earlier study reported that the presence of music could make advertising more attractive to listeners or viewers than the absence of it. When effectively used, foreground and background music can make advertising more appealing.

A study from 1991 on music in film reported that background music, especially with a voiceover in the foreground, could reflect the values and attitudes of a specific subculture or demographic. It is important not to lean on stereotypies for genres associated with specific demographics – like loud electronic music to draw in teenagers – but choosing certain styles of music can influence who will be more attracted to your brand. It is important to consider what genres and styles of music your potential customers will enjoy without relying on assumptions.

To this end, researcher Jennifer L. Aaker and her team developed a scale to understand brand personality. This is defined as the set of human characteristics that are associated with brands. People who interact emotionally with different brands will associate personality traits with them, and music is one way to work with this.

In Aaker’s study, five personality dimensions were used.

  1. Sincerity: This was associated with honesty, domesticity, cheerfulness, and genuineness.
  2. Excitement: This trait was closely associated with being spirited, daring, imaginative, and modern.
  3. Competence: This personality trait was associated with reliability, responsibility, efficiency, and dependability.
  4. Sophistication: Traits reported alongside this one included glamor, pretentiousness, romance, and charm.
  5. Similar reported traits included strength, toughness, and outdoor adventurousness.

Choosing songs with traits that rank near what you want your brand personality to be will harmonize with the image you want to project.

There are other aspects of music you should consider alongside personality as well. For example, did you legally license the music? Are any explicit lyrics managed so your brand image will not be disrupted? Can you link your advertising music to a playlist for different storefronts? There are several approaches to these questions that must be considered after you determine how you sonically wish to represent your business.