Background music is a fundamental element in the process of brand experience.
It is the tip of the iceberg that emanates with its own vibrations throughout the entire environment, characterizing its emotional connotations.
Like light, smells, and decor, background music must follow the style of the space in which it is played, along with intensifying the values of the brand.
“La Feltrinelli” bookstore
I often go to “La Feltrinelli.” I look, I consult, I read, I let my curiosity be transported according the desire to know what will emerge from the shelves. I buy. And listen. If I do not listen, or if I try not to listen, I spend hours in my happy place, unaware of the passing of time, and I relax. If, though, I do listen, after a bit I become agitated because the music seems out-of-place. Perhaps I buy a pair of books right away and leave.
I ask myself: why?
The selection of music does not follow any logic and the background music shows profound symptoms of inconsistency. La Feltrinelli is synonymous with culture and, other than the selling and distribution of books, pursues this with bibliographical editions, discography, television (la effe) and radio (Radio Feltrinelli).
Is it the management’s fault?
There are three possibilities motivating this inconsistency in the background music:
- the management does not know the principles of sound branding;
- the management knows the principles of sound branding but does not apply them;
- the management knows the principles of sound branding and tries to apply them but does not take control of every point of sale.
Considering the fact that there are often important musical moments inside bookstores (where I have even met Stefano Bollani and Petra Magoni), I would say that the management knows in part the principles of sound branding, but does not have a professional who can apply them correctly. They do not take the necessary control over the soundtrack and, as a consequence, do not get the feedback that is indispensable in obtaining the optimal playlist.
How would one create a playlist for “La Feltrinelli”?
The process for creating a worthy playlist is always the same. As it is for other brands, so it is for “La Feltrinelli.”
First, we must identify the brand’s values and translate those into music to integrate them with the entire shopping experience.
The role of music must be reevaluated until it becomes a part of the marketing and communication strategy
With this holistic concept of the role that music plays, music becomes an element full of indispensable and strategically useful emotional value even in follow-up with clients.
Having defined these fundamental concepts of sound branding and sound strategy, we go next to the specific execution of sound design: we translate the brand’s values into sound.
Sounds, rhythms, and styles are the available ingredients for a sound designer to use to uniquely characterize a brand’s sound.
In the end, we create the basis for the optimal diffusion of background music at the points of sale and points of interest: audio signal quality, listening quality, availability to the points of listening, volume.
These are all technical characteristics that require elevated quality standards so that the whole process is executed according to the rules of the art.
The incorrect use of background music is annoying, anxiety-provoking, and compromises the whole service
When the choice of background music is not appropriate, people feel uncomfortable, buy less, leave, and have a harder time returning.
The incorrect use of background music drives clients away
With a ruthless competitor like Amazon, which offers books at even lower prices and with devastating customer service, background music must create a competitive advantage and not penalizing the shopping experience. For this reason, there must be a professional who plans the strategy, solidifies it, and takes the necessary controls to optimize the whole process.
The tip of the iceberg
To summarize, background music is the tip of the iceberg, the implementation of the delicate process called sound branding.
In the first phase of sound branding, we project the sound of a brand, defining its objectives and guidelines. After this initial phase of defining the objectives and the strategy to follow, a sound design professional will realize the project.
It is a complicated activity that requires plenty of experience, critical ability, creativity, musical culture, and a good dose of lateral thinking when solutions don’t pay off.
In my long experience, I have seen and listened to masterpieces executed through music. Just as I have heard disasters. In the case of the former, you need a good dose of talent on top of culture and experience. In the latter, to avoid disaster, you need to add to the culture and have some good common sense.
Ask for advice, follow people who have done similar work, study new existing researches and try to apply them to your field; seek the necessary feedback for empirical studies that from time to time vary in function from our singular case.
Every brand has its own sound and different audio needs.