How Music Influences Customer Behaviour

I’m a Starbucks regular. Some might say “addict”, but that’s judging.

Every morning on my way into the office I stop and grab a tea at Starbucks. As an audio and music geek, I pay close attention to the music. Nearly every time I order my tea, the music playing at Starbucks is a perfect reflection of a brand built on warmth, community, peace, harmony, and connection.

Most people don’t even notice the music playing, but at Starbucks the audio environment matters. It isn’t random at all. At Starbucks, the music is a key part of the brand and the brand experience.

Starbucks is one brand that understands how music permeates the brain in ways that words, logic, and visual images simply cannot. Music can empower. It can motivate. It inspires thoughts and introspection. Music can pump you up, or reduce your stress. Music is a drug, reaching the brain and altering how you feel and behave.

In a now-famous study (North, Hargreaves, & McKendrick), a wine store once experimented with music. On a week when classical French music played, the store sold significantly more French wine. On a week when they played classic German music, sales of German wines took off. Yet consumers, when asked after making their purchase, could not recall the music. Based on research, the music had no impact. Yet we know for a fact that it did. Consumers think that they simply bought what they they wanted… but what they didn’t know was that the so-called background music influenced their decision.

That is powerful.

When you control the music, you control the mood.

This is something Starbucks recognizes.

Yet so many businesses give little to no thought to their audio environment. They pour money and time and thought into the look, taste, smell, and touch of their brand… but the fail to consider how the right music can influence customer behaviour.

If you choose the right music, your customers will pay more.

If you choose the right music, customers will buy more.

If you choose the right music, customers will feel more. They will remember you. They will come back to you. They will tell friends about you.

And they won’t ever know why.

Sometimes choosing the right music for a business is simply avoiding the wrong music. According to the Journal of Retailing, “music incongruent with product image can lead to a reduction in prices consumers are willing to pay”.

Is your audio environment a perfect reflection of your brand?

Do you treat the songs playing as you would treat your logo, sign, or TV commercial?

Your business and brand is a function of all of the senses, but only truly smart and evolved brands understand and appreciate the way sounds can influence their brand, and how customers react to it.