The Role of Music in Marketing

Music’s impact on a listener’s mood and its ability to impact their psychology has long been recognized—and, before it was empirically studied, we can only imagine that our earliest human ancestors understood this important interplay between music and emotion, intuitively.

But the way that music is applied to marketing is a little bit more mysterious. By now, you’d think professionals would have it down to a science. But really, there are a lot of factors that impede marketers from using music to its fullest potential.

Let’s pause there, though: What does “effectively” mean? 

In an ideal world, music would be used to help an ad stand out. It would be the right background to highlight the message that the advertiser is trying to present; not just a great song, but one that enhances the audience’s enjoyment of the content and then helps them remember it later. 

For example: Every now and then, we get stuck with an earworm that’s traceable back to a commercial on television. We can picture the images of the commercial and the portion of the song that’s used. But what on earth was that commercial selling? A car? Which brand? What were the highlights? If you can remember the song and the ad, but not the product or brand, then (even if the commercial ultimately stood out) the music was not being used effectively. 

So just dropping buckets of dough on licensing an incredible, popular song isn’t quite enough. 

Speaking of which, you might have the most perfect music in mind for your ad. But you might not be able to access it. If you have issues with getting the rights, or it falls outside of your budget, then you’re going to need to find another option that might be slightly less effective. Considering access is a big part of getting music right in marketing content. 

Another thing to think about is who is in charge of determining what the “right” music is. Even for agencies that focus exclusively on radio, digital, or streaming content, there is rarely a music specialist on staff. Much of the time, this becomes a collaborative effort (and in some cases, that means no one is paying particular attention to one of the most important elements) or it’s a task that people assume they can figure out down the road after other creative and practical aspects of the campaign are sorted out. 

Once the music is chosen, you can test the finished product, of course, and learn if it will be effective. This is a process that many marketers rely on; and there’s nothing wrong with it, per se. But it’s not necessarily the only way to learn if these are the best choices available. You can A/B test with different music samples plugged in and survey test samples or run the ad in different markets to see how well it performs before launching it on a wider scale.

But if you have the resources and bandwidth, then it should be noted that deeper research is possible to learn how people feel about the music on its own (for example, what feeling words are associated with hearing it), their associations with the song, what music they might expect from that type of ad, and what they don’t like about other samples. Some researchers have even tested things like heart rate, eye movement, body temperature, and other metrics that can give better insights into how music is immediately impacting someone’s emotional and physiological state. Finding music that puts people into the kind of relaxed, focused, content frame of mind that they might be aspiring for, in order to be receptive to messaging, can ensure that the money and effort put into the overall content is going to achieve the intended goals. 

As we round the first quarter of the 21st century, learning more about how music can be used effectively in marketing is going to be imperative for competitive professionals. For now, asking the right questions about what it means to use music effectively in your content—online, in social feeds, running through radio ads, and on television commercials—is a start. Defining what you want it to achieve and putting forth some steps to determine if it’s taking your audience in that direction before fully committing is essential. Certainly, music sampling should never be an afterthought or something for your cool intern to do just because they’re always going to concerts and constantly have their AirPods in. It’s an art and a science all to its own—just like marketing itself.

At Mad 4 Marketing, it’s just another one of those details that gets 100% of our time, attention, and strategy, to make sure that the final product is composed entirely of well-thought-out, well-executed, effective elements that will ensure our clients’ success.

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