How is music contributing to – or detracting from – your brand…?
While the art of branding so often focuses on visual identity, research shows that the music you play in your store, reception or restaurant is also important. Music creates an audio environment which can either reinforce your brand experience, or undermine it.
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, a professor at the Western Kentucky University, began studying how background music influences shopping behavior back in the 1980s. He found that kind of music you play can not only increase sales, it can help your customers “tune in” to your brand’s core values.
Businesses need to coordinate their visual identity and sonic identities.
However, deciding how your brand should sound musically is a quite subjective. We – and the shop assistants and receptionists we employ – all have strong personal preferences about the music like to listen to.
It’s easy to let these personal preferences lead us astray. Our personal musical tastes, and those of our employees, may be waaay out of alignment with the soundtrack that would best build our brand.
For example, I visited a coffee shop in Manhattan recently. The name and decor exuded a hip, jazz feel. But the barista was head-bobbing to his favourite death-metal track.
I didn’t stay for a second cup.
The following day, I visited a Starbucks. This is a brand which invests significantly in creating a cohesive in-store experience. The familiar warm, rich decor of the store was complemented by a playlist of light alternative music… I enjoyed a second cup.
Even the world’s biggest retailers have had a tough time controlling what’s being played across their many locations. Many shipped CDs to their stores, only to find that staff sometimes hijacked the stereo in favour of their own playlist, or that the limited number of songs available became stale, repetitive and out-of-date.
The advent of digital streaming has put power back in the hands of brand managers. And companies like Soundtrack Your Brand are help them create a supportive sonic identity.
Soundtrack Your Brand curates playlists that help companies create the right audio environment for their brand, and then digitally distributes music direct to stores via services such as Spotify.
According to Jasmine Moradi, Soundtrack Your Brand’s in-store music researcher, “The best store music is actually music you don’t really remember. It creates an atmosphere that enchants you, but it remains below the level of consciousness. The worst music is often the music you notice because that’s music that doesn’t fit the brand and the store atmosphere.”
Moradi says that music is transforming from functional elevator background music to much more emotional foreground music. She cites clothing retailer GANT, and their sophisticated approach to the music they play.
“When you build a brand, you also personify the sort of customer you want to appeal to. Through visual ads, you create the sort of person that your customers want to identify with. GANT match the music to that same ideal person, and increase their customers’ desire to associate themselves with GANT.”