Musical elements and their effect

Choosing music in a business context

juli 5th, 2016 Posted by communication, marketing, storytelling No Comment yet

We live in an era of information-overload. Thousands of messages and impressions overwhelm us on a daily basis, which makes it harder and harder to concentrate (research has shown that younger generations have greater difficulty focussing than earlier generations). In contrast to images, a sound is not bound to a visual connection with target audiences, it is easier to filter an image subconsciously than it is to rule out sounds. Translated freely, it is our nature to listen and that is why music is an even more powerful tool than before.

Okay, there are still about a hundred thousand things you still don’t know when it comes to music (that goes for us too). But if you have read our previous article, you should be able to understand how music influences our brain. This also means that it is time to translate that knowledge: how do you apply the neuroscience of music in a business context?

Music in a business context

The message within your music is determined by several elements that together form a ‘ musical piece or song’. These elements consist out of the tempo, melody, sound levels, instruments, language, the genre of the song and the text that is sung.

In order to guide through your thought process, we compiled the following questions for you:

Why do you want music?

You don’t have to convince us on your ideas of the importance of music. That is not what interests us.

What does interest us is the purpose of your music: What is it for? Are you looking for a one time song, are you looking for something that will withstand the test of time or are you looking for several pieces that will compliment each other?

For example, when creating series (corporate videos) it is to be advised to create musical pieces with some variation instead of using the same music over and over again. By selecting several (for each message type, use a different piece) matching pieces that compliment each other, you will maintain the active and alert state your audience is in. If you don’t, you might lose the unique message within the subsequent videos.

Secondly, in which time span will the musical piece be used? Is it meant for a lasting message that will be told for years to come or is it a more contemporary production made especially for an event? If you answered yes to it being a lasting message, a timeless piece is probably the way to go while in the second case, a popular song from the charts or a derivative thereof might prove much more successful.

Which music fits the bill

In our first article about music, we mentioned that our memories largely consist our of our formative periods. This means your target audience most likely has similar positive associations with a number stemming from their formative years (provided that they come from a specific age group). It offers an exquisite base during your search for appropriate music. Chances are, they will pay attention to you longer than they otherwise would have because of the recognition of the song and secondly, there is a good chance that they will pair the specific emotion for that song to your brand when exposed repeatedly.

In order to predict the preferences of your target audiences with great accuracy, the creation of customer profiles is priceless. (If you don’t have customer profiles already, we have written a Dutch article about how to create those profiles which is accessible here). Whatever you decide, your genre shouldn’t stand out too much, you don’t want to be remembered solely for your jingle….Good music merges with your visual and auditory elements. Light and bright music pieces have often proven to be best suited for corporate videos but if your goal is to evoke an emotional response, a distinctive piece might be much more functional.

Does the music match with your message?

Sole focus on your target audience won’t get you there either. The music you choose should also complement your brand, values and products or services. Classical music is associated with a high standard, good quality, being classical and peace. It is known to create a desire for wine amongst shoppers (due to the subconscious association with rest and quality) but, on the other hand, also portraits your products as being more expensive than average.

Even the origin of music (language) has an effect on your audience. Research shows that when playing Italian music within a winery, people automatically choose more Italian wines and liquors while playing French music, for instance, will create an extra pull on French wines.

A more experimental approach is to choose music that conflicts with your message of the video. This (if done properly) will create curiosity. IF you are a daredevil that wants to try this technique, make sure you attract a composer to help you choose the right music. Because if this goes wrong, you will have created such an uncomfortable feeling that, as a result, your target audience will distance themselves from you.

Complimentary or in the background?

If you would like to stimulate the creativity within your company, a moderate level of ambient noise and or music is ideal. Due to the slight increase of noise, processing of information becomes just a tad more challenging for your brain which stimulates abstract processing of information and thus a higher form of creativity. Both silence and loud noises are disastrous for the creative process because processing can not be done efficiently anymore. It proves that besides light and temperature, the sound is an important control issue for HR.

Do you have a supermarket then these rules don’t apply to you ( in store), you might want to turn it up a notch during the weekends and right before closing time. Studies have shown that shoppers do their groceries more quickly but buy the same amount of products when the music exceeds the normal volume.

Do you have an informative message to bring? Playing music in the background might be best in order not to distract your audience from the message you want to bring to them. Instruments are also very important in these cases, complex melodies and heavy beats can disrupt messages. Certain piano, guitar, violin, cello melodies and flutes ( in the same frequency spectrum as the human voice) could also be ruled as destructive.

Besides the volume and your choice of instruments, you also have to decide between using a fully instrumental piece or using a piece with singing. In the case of an informative message or video with voice-overs, singing can quickly overpower the main audio. On the other hand, singing can also create a layered quality in terms of emotion and by that strengthen the overall experience of your audience. Always ask yourself what your most important objectives are and how you are going to measure them.

Thirdly, think about when you want to use the music. When does the volume or intensity increase and when should it fade? Evenly important: which parts of a song do you want to use? You are by no means obligated to start with the intro, feel free to start at any verse that matches your message best and work your way up to the chorus. The volume can also vary (not too often). Do make sure you don’t end or start songs to abruptly. Building a musical structure and fading out both create a more natural course and will help your brain to process the information more effectively.

What ambience would you like to portrait?

How should your target audience feel while looking at the video and how about afterwards? If you are a retail specialist, playing feel-good songs, that are focussed on the power of women, could prove to be ideal (if you target audience consists out of women that is). Women who listen to that music will generally judge themselves more positively when looking in the mirror and will be happier with the way they look in general. Also, music can create more self-worth meaning they will be more likely to pamper themselves a little.

Exposing your audience repeatedly to a certain genre or emotion through music and atmosphere during contact moments conditions your target audience (connections between the emotion and brand are formed). One of my all time favourite examples is that of Coca-Cola linking itself to Christmas. I bet most of you directly thought of the same commercial. All those positive Christmas emotions linked to the brand, how amazing is that!

Which tempo and rhythm should a song have?

By choosing the right rhythm you can strengthen and reinforce the desired associations with your brand, products or services. Rhythm and melody are first connected and structured by your brain. Next, your brain anticipates on the progression of a musical piece. It is important to obtain a balance between meeting expectations and deviate to keep your audience receptive.
Also, the tempo of your song will affect the behaviour of your audiences. Music with a tempo of about 60 beats a minute will lead to slower movement of the listener. This means that your customers will eat and drink more slowly (which is not ideal if you are looking for an utilisation rate of 300% within a restaurant) or even shop more slowly. Would you like to energise and motivate your audience? A number that consists out of 100-140 beats a minute would be rather ideal. And if you are looking for ways to stimulate creativity, a song with 60 to 90 beats a minute is your best bet.

What’s your budget?

It would be dreamlike to be able to ask Adele to sing a song for you but for most, that will always remain that: a dream. Determine your music budget up front.

There are several online music libraries that can help you during your quest. In these libraries, affordable music can be found based on specific categories. For instance, the online music library Marmoset based her meta-tags on emotion. Here are some of the most well know libraries:

audio jungle (Envato market)
music dealers
Getty images

An alternative approach would be to look for a reference piece. Think of songs that compliment your message best and use an audio search tool to find a similar song. Try one of them here: bed tracks

Naturally, you could also look for music in the public domain. There are online lists that are enriched on a daily basis, one of them is the Petrucci Music Library. In this library, pieces are offered free of charge by composers or they are songs that have been placed in the public domain.

When your budget allows it, please hire a composer. Composers have trained hearing and are therefore much better suited to pick up subtle nuances within a piece. Secondly, they are far more experienced with tuning pieces to better fit the message.

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Marketing and Communication Specialist at TAS - Tells a Story
Maike van Oyen is a mother, friend, sister, daughter and dedicated communications and marketing specialist on the side. She has written many articles for several websites in both Dutch and English about Corporate Communications, Marketing, Change Management and HR.

Maike loves to sink her teeth into complex projects of change and has a good knowledge of communication on a strategical, tactical and an operational level. She is trained to work in hectic environments (she manages to write blogs while also doing the housework, watching 4 misguided missiles and working for TAS at the same time). And is used to finding creative solutions for every challenge.
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