Brand Experience: Which Music Improves the Quality of Service?

To add value to a service, is it better to play well-known or unknown music?

Ambient music is a rather powerful communication tool in the process of brand experience because it touches a direct channel: hearing. The variations in background noise must adapt to the context and must stay aware of the reference target’s expectations and of the possible reactions to the music. It is important that there be consistency between the transmission, the sound’s message, and the destined listener.

There are two conflicting schools of thought that revolve around the use of one or another type of music. The first demonstrates that little-known music is too anonymous and doesn’t leave a trace. The second maintains that popular music is distracting, drawing too much attention to the music.

A very important study was conducted on our territory to take on the question and spotlight the concept of brand experience

It was conducted by a team of researchers comprised of Professor Luca Petruzzellis and Dr. Ada Palumbo in the Economics department at the University in Bari, in collaboration with Professor Jean-Charles Chebat from Hec Montreal.

The work of the thesis studied the choice of a global brand conducting an experiment in the real life sales context. Clients at the point of sale during the first week were exposed to little-known music, while in the second week, on the same days and hours, they were exposed to popular music. The time period was chosen with attention to the absence of promotional sales that might influence consumer behavior.

The investigation demonstrated that for the best brand experience, it is better at the point of sale to play little-known music, since it is more in harmony with the sales context, it transmits favorable sensations to the shopping experience, it allows people to make more reasonable purchases because it is not distracting, and it improves the probability of client return.

“Consumers at a mall in Bari were made to listen to two completely different musical selections while they shopped: the first was made of popular and well-known tracks; the other of little-known and unrecognizable tracks. Some shoppers were asked to complete a questionnaire to gauge their reactions. The clients were intercepted at the end of their shopping experience to fill out the questionnaire aimed at investigating the perceived atmosphere and the buying experience they just had at the point of sale.

Popular music is an obstacle to the buying process and disturbs the process of brand experience

“From analysis of the responses, they understood that popular music instills a state of nervousness in 47% of consumers and annoys 45%. On the other hand, these negative sensations were not significantly present with little-known music (the percentages fall to 18% and 22%, respectively).

Brand Experience
Brand Experience

Popular music also contributed to distracting 52% of consumers from the purchases they were about to make, six times more than little-known music did (the percentage of distracted consumers falls to 8%) and reduced the length of their stay at the point of sale for 50% of consumers. That phenomenon was verified by a small percentage of consumers, about 6%, on the day when little-known music was played. Thanks to its ability to transmit a more relaxed state of being, it lengthened clients’ stays in the mall.”

Brand Experience
Brand Experience
Brand Experience
Brand Experience

The study proved that popular music, compared to lesser-known music, transmits more active, lively, enthusiastic emotions and excitement and is capable of drawing attention to itself. That knowledge is crucial in the choice between different types of music if you consider that more active states of being accelerate consumers’ movements through the point of sale, reducing their length of stay and the number of items they observe and take into consideration. In fact, with lesser-known music in the background, it was possible to complete a more intense cognitive task. Little-known music predisposes the client to a greater appreciation of the sentimental qualities of a point of sale, having less of a stimulating effect than popular music.

Should popular music always be avoided?

Consumers are not all equal. From the study, we learn that people who shop in the morning, like stay-at-home parents and employees, buy products that are necessary and important, like groceries for the whole family. These consumers need more serenity and opportunity for reflection. It is no wonder that they preferred the little-known, relaxing music.

Conversely, those who go to the mall during their lunch hour, primarily employees and freelancers, are scarcely deeply involved with their purchases given that they have only a brief period of time to spend. Because of this, they are not influenced as much by background music.

Consumers who prefer to go shopping in the late afternoon, like the students and stay-at-home parents interviewed, attribute a meaning and a personal value to their purchases, which they hold important, necessary, and interesting. They are very involved in their purchases and require adequate music of both types, even if for different reasons.

And who shops in the evening? The mall is packed with diverse consumers: the student with her mother, the retiree with his grandchildren, the young employee with her friends, the father, the school friends, and the couples.

In an overcrowded context so full of stimuli, the study suggests that people appreciate popular music more.

And so, which of these two theories is really applicable to your brand experience?

Marco Solforetti



Fabio Ratti:


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