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No more ads please! But what about implicit advertisement?

People are fleeing from any publicity made by brands. They even are paying not to look at them (Hsu, 2019). We dislike being bombarded by them. Those pop-up ads never end!

But what if I tell you (yes you, marketing guy!) that there’s another way to influence people in a much subtler way? Music and sound Mr. Anderson, MUSIC and SOUND. Or if you like, audio branding…

Purchase Intent Behavior

What do you mean by those sophisticated psychological words? Well, in simpler terms: the willingness to buy a certain product.

Let’s say I go to a store and I start looking at a bunch of different wine brands. There’s some nice classical music playing from the speakers which gives a refined vibe to the whole place. I’ve selected a bottle of wine and I go to the counter. The cashier says a high price to which I agree without hesitation and I make my purchase. More people come to the store and do the same wine selection and oddly enough, the majority takes out a wine that’s more expensive than the usual.

Stay with me!

Some weeks pass by and here’s me again buying another wine (I may take time between purchases not to look like an alcoholic so don’t judge!). Some pop music is playing through the speakers this time around. And it doesn’t quite seem to fit with the whole wine thing really. But hey, I’m not there to judge (although my behavior is and I’ll tell you why in a sec!) and I buy a much cheaper wine. This time, more people seem to agree with me unconsciously (or I’m just self-centered here) and buy cheaper wine than last time.

So what happened?

Music was influencing how much they were willing to pay for the wine. In the first scenario with classical music in the background, people perceived the whole situation as of high status and refined, so they acted accordingly. Buying more expensive wine. In the second scenario (pop music), their association wasn’t as highly valued as in the first case so their purchase was of less value.

But remember! People must perceive the relationship you are trying to create: CLASSICAL MUSIC — SOPHISTICATED WINE. It won’t work without that association in mind.

By the way, this tendency (classical vs pop) is from an actual study (Charles S. Areni and David Kim, 1993). A similar study found out that French wine sold more than German wine during the days french music was played, and vice versa (North, Hargreaves, & McKendrick, 1999).

How much time has passed?

In Great Britain, 70% of businesses leave their customers waiting on their phones for an average of 45 seconds (McMahon, 2016). Now, it’s not much but people don’t like to wait in line either. If the wait is more than 2 minutes they usually hang up (Contact Center World, 2016).

So how can we make people at least feel that their waiting time hasn’t been that long and therefore keep our customers? Once again…music!

Music can change our perception of how much time has passed. Studies have shown that when people listen to slow tempo music they have a reduced time perception (Oakes, 2003; Kellaris, Krishnan, Oakes, 2007). People feel less time has passed than it actually has. So they will feel less annoyed. And if the music is of their liking, their evaluation will be much more positive of the whole situation. Better customer retention then!

Conclusion: what do you do?

Instead of traditional ads, do implicit advertisements using music. Do some research, see how you can use music strategically. In-store music and call center music are just two applications of this big realm of sound.

Be wise and don’t bombard your clients with stimuli. They will just shut down or avoid it. A subtler way doesn’t mean less effective, remember what can water do to rock through time just by applying one drop at a time.

As Bruce Lee wisely says “Be as water, my friend”


Charles S. Areni and David Kim (1993) ,”The Influence of Background Music on Shopping Behavior: Classical Versus Top-Forty Music in a Wine Store”, in NA — Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 336–340.

Contact Center World (2016). Putting a Caller on Hold. Retrieved from the 24th of February 2020.

Kellaris, J. J., Krishnan, C. V., & Oakes, C. S. (2007). Music and time perception: When does a song make it seem long?. Marketing Theory and Applications, 229.

McMahon, K. (2016). Research Reveals How Much Time We Spend on Hold. Retrieved from the 24th of February 2020.

North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & McKendrick, J. (1999). The influence of in-store music on wine selections. Journal of Applied psychology, 84(2), 271.

Oakes, S. (2003). Musical tempo and waiting perceptions. Psychology & Marketing, 20(8), 685–705.

Oakes, S., & North, A. C. (2008). Using music to influence cognitive and affective responses in queues of low and high crowd density. Journal of Marketing Management, 24(5–6), 589–602.

Hsu, T. (2019). The Advertising Industry Has a Problem: People Hate Ads. En The New York Times. Retrieved from the 25th of February 2020.

By Pavle Marinkovic on .
Are you curious about the world of sound and music? Learn how music can enhance a plant’s growth, the way sound changes our sense of taste, understand the music industry, and much more! Join my newsletter to embark on this journey of sound awareness.
If you were interested in this article, I recommend you follow this link: Audiobranding

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