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Influence of music in consumer advertising

There is no doubt that music changes the way we feel, and the way that we look at things. The beautiful girl on the tube looks 10 times more beautiful with Tarrus Riley – She’s Royal in your ears. So what effect does music in advertising have on consumers’ moods, attitudes, and behaviours?

My role as a New Business Manager has taught me a great deal about how we are marketed to. From research, to strategy, through to delivery of marketing campaigns, and more importantly the depths to which brands will go to tap into our emotions.

Over the past 5 years I have seen a growing interest in “emotional advertising” with recent trends in brands looking at things like behavioural economics at the research stage, which includes looking at the emotional factors in the consumer’s buying decisions.

Music has long been a huge factor in guiding emotional decisions in advertising, and these days it’s almost impossible to turn on the TV and not witness the marriage of music and commerce.

There have been many studies and theories on the emotional effect music has on our purchasing decisions, but perhaps one of the most popular papers on the the effects of music in advertising was Gerald J. Gorn’s experiment (Gorn, 1982). He paired a light blue or a beige coloured pen (neutral stimulus) with both well-liked and disliked music (unconditioned stimulus). 79% of the subjects chose the pen with music they liked – a conditioned reaction.

Music also enhances the recall for a product, even if the emotion evoked by the advert is hatred. Take Go Compare for example, it drives me insane but the brand is burned into my brain whether I like it or not.

Equally, a massive number of car advertisements we now see are 90% music. An inspiring piece of music is sometimes all it takes to stimulate us to feel something toward a car and associate it with a better way of life. An American advert for Honda Odyssey I came across does just that, and although I don’t have a driving license nor in fact any kids to need a people carrier, I can see how this ad would evoke a positive emotion with parents wanting life to be this serene when driving their kids about.

The emotional stimulus aside, products advertised are identified much quicker with a certain piece of music. In some cases it’s the music alone that makes the brand identifiable. Take Bach’s Air on a G String for example… Cigar?

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