The science behind sensory marketing has always been based on common sense first, and then in experiments that formalized the proposed theories. In the case of music for business, there are many aspects to be taken into account: the rhythm, the genre, even the instruments involved.
If it were possible to weigh all these factors, one could create a perfect mathematical formula that, when entering variables about our business, could yield the perfect music for our needs. But for now, this topic is one that we can only approach with common sense and a yearning for experimentation.
The key to determining whether certain music is suited to an establishment is congruency between business’s brand image the music the business plays. What exactly is congruency? Put simply, it’s when the music matches the message we want to transmit to the public.
The easiest way to understand congruency and how we can use it in our favor is to differentiate between retail and hospitality businesses, and then to extrapolate our conclusions to other environments.
Retail: Who Does Your Customer Want to Be?
In retail stores the key to positioning is thinking about what type of person our customer aspires to be when buying our products.
Society has reached a point where we unconsciously judge stores by the type of music they play. This is because auditory marketing done correctly utilizes music for business as an extension of brand. Shops with urban aesthetics will tend to play hip hop music, while “hip” brands will often play more music.
If we think about it, brands that use mostly pop music in their stores are those that are not geared towards any specific population segment. Their goal is to appeal to a broad demographic. However this strategy is a privilege of brands that already have global positioning. Brands that fail matching music to the rest of their aesthetic are at risk of getting stuck in no-man’s land.
Most people use music to define our identity, especially during the teenage years. It affects the environments we choose to spend time in and the friends we want to spend time with. Clothing holds similar power: we dress as who we are, but we buy according to who we want to be. This is why at SoundMachine we are obsessed with creating sound designs to maximize the potential of every music genre.
It can be easier to feel our identity tied to a type of musics than to a style of clothing. Our ears are there to help in the moments when the eyes feel overwhelmed and all garments seem the same.
Hospitality: Experience Over Identity
In hospitality, the music that is playing is not so much about the identity of the consumer as it is about the situation of the moment. Therefore, the strategy here is different. Ehat is it that the consumer has come here to experience, and how can we add intensity to it? And no, we don’t mean adding intensity by playing Celine Dion’s greatest hits! If we want to create a cozy environment, we have to play cozy music. If we want a high-end environment, sophisticated music is our go-to option.
Themed restaurants are one of the best examples of how congruency is key. This extreme example illustrates that if in an Italian restaurant we find French music playing, we will have a negative impression of the place. We won’t feel a sense of authenticity in the place, and our perception of quality will be reduced. In the same way, at an Italian restaurant we will associate classical Italian music with a more authentic experience than current Italian hits.
Nathalie T. M. Demoulin did a study on this concept in 2011. Her experiments demonstrated that people tend to associate musical congruency with a higher perception of quality. The study showed that customers at a French restaurant had a better impression of their food when French music was playing, and they even gave higher ratings to the service.
Applicable to all Commercial Environments
The significance of these cases can be extrapolated to other scenarios once the concept of congruency is clear.
The best examples are gyms, where background music has to be energetic to prevent clients from losing concentration. Examples that are less clear but have the same significance of impact are hospitals. At these facilities, music is a companion to the need for a tranquil setting.
Music for business has to be part of the transmitted message, and not only that which fills the silence. What is it that resonates with your customers’ ideals?