Blog 9 – An Inclination toward Inspiration

… What has inspired me throughout these blogs? …

                 As the final week of this module approaches, I’m left wondering just what has inspired me throughout this process. This pondering- combined with a lack of ideas for this week’s blog- led me to the decision to focus this week on my inspiration and why I found it to be so. What inspired me is not something I ever explicitly mentioned in any of my blogs, but it is something that I came across during some broad research a few weeks ago. It’s a small segment by Bobby McFerrin from a TED talk, the clip is below…

So the thing that really hit me when I watched that video is the fact that music is innate. We can understand how music works without it ever being explained- to some extent at least. This is one of the strongest aspects of music in marketing then, if it is truly innate then everyone should be able to relate to it in some shape or form. There is also research to support this notion, with Winkler et al. (2008) showing that even newborn infants can recognise and react to the beat of a piece of music and thus implying that there is some natural ability to understand music. In the video, Bobby mentions that no matter where he is, “every audience gets that”, and that is another strength of the innate understanding of music, it remains universal throughout cultures! Balkwill and Thompson (1999) gave some strong evidence of this in their research; they played music from unfamiliar foreign cultures to western participants and asked them to identify the emotions that the music expressed. They found that participants were indeed sensitive to the intended emotional response. This obviously has strong relevance to the world of marketing, as it means that music based advertising can be used cross-culturally without any major loss of effect! There is however, research that questions the universality of music, Gregory and Varney (1996) for example showed that there were differences in emotional response from Asian and European participants, although the differences were noted to be “subtle”. Regardless of whether there are differences between cultures though, it makes sense that music is innate in humankind, as Fitch (2006) notes in his work music and song is common throughout the animal kingdom for communication purposes and so it makes perfect evolutionary sense for us to have some natural understanding of how it works and what it means. In fact musical instruments have been dated back as far as 40,000 years ago in the form of prehistoric bone flutes! So music has been in our lives for some time…

What does all this mean for consumer psychology then? Well essentially it just means that music has an amazing potential to affect us that is essentially built in, and as such it means we don’t need to be too concerned about cultural differences or demographics, music just… works!

Inspiring stuff eh?

Thought I’d leave this other piece of fantastic work by Bobby McFerrin with you in this hectic time of deadlines and exam preparation… 😉

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Blog 8 – The Digitisation of the Nation

… Has the digital age changed music consumption? …

                Maintaining my theme from my last blog, I’m going to be discussing how music is sold; this week focusing on the most common methods used today, digital downloads. The music industry is ever evolving, going from vinyl records, to cassette tapes, to compact discs (CD’s if you weren’t aware) and now to digital formats; perhaps the most surprising thing about this evolution is how rapidly it has occurred, your parents will have experienced every generation of musical merchandise, in fact, I imagine many of you have too!  Throughout most of music’s history though, the merchandising aspects have remained the same… Until now… The digital age has completely changed the face of music, and as Bajwa (2001) discusses in her review, it has raised a number of threats to the music industry, in terms of sales, copyright issues and piracy.

The times they are a-changing…

In fact, the digital age is changing the face of the entire world, Dholakia and Bagozzi (2002) make note of just how different these times are, raising questions over the relevance of research from earlier decades to the modern consumer, they do note however that the strongest pieces of research will always stand the test of time, with findings that go beyond the medium of merchandising.  Can we consider the digital age a good or a bad thing then? Well, it’s hard to argue with all the benefits it gives us, in everyday life as well as in the consumer world; Teo and Yeong (2003) showed that consumers were left more satisfied with digital purchases due to the higher perceived benefits of search and overall deal evaluation, so we’re able to assess a wider market in a shorter time, hard to question the benefits of that!  In terms of music though there are some potential economical downsides, i.e. piracy; Waldfogel (2010) found that in a survey of students, respondents had more ‘stolen’ music than paid music, they also note however that the majority of music ‘stolen’ is low-valuation, and as such would not have been bought by the people in question, so the industry hasn’t even received any less money!

I stole this comic. Now I’m sharing it with you!

So why do people pirate music? Well according to Coyle et al. (2009) it’s because of a vast variety of reasons that all intertwine into the eventual answer of “to pirate or not to pirate?” As such, it’s probably quite difficult to identify a pirate on paper, but in my experience, it’s almost anyone aged between 8 and 80 who knows anything about computers… So piracy is bad right? Actually… Not at all! Peitz and Waelbroeck (2006) show in their paper that, as it turns out, after being able to listen to music, people are actually willing to pay more for it! Essentially it boils down to this, is album ‘x’ worth ‘y’ amount of money to you? Well if it’s not, you aren’t going to buy it, but you could just download it for free and listen to it… The music business hasn’t lost any money, you weren’t going to buy it anyway! But, after listening you decide that actually, album ‘x’ is definitely worth ‘y’! And so you buy it. I’ve done this before, and I know many others who have.

The digital age has most definitely changed the way we consume music, but I don’t think it’s been ALL that much of a change, and I believe the benefits of it far outweigh any of the costs; in fact what some may consider the biggest ‘cost’ – the aspect of piracy – I personally consider a great strength, I would never have listened to and subsequently bought even half of the music I own without piracy, and there are many many others who feel the same.

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Blog 7 – The Brand of a Band is in Demand!

… Why do we buy music? …

                Carrying on from the twist in last week’s blog, I’ll be focusing more on why we actually buy music instead of how music can help us buy things. So what is it about music that makes us buy it exactly? The answer seems obvious, we like the songs right? Well that’s not necessarily always the case! Take for example the Elvis Presley song, “Love Me Tender”, a pleasant song and one that spent 2 weeks at number one back in the 50’s, have a quick listen to it,

Now, have a listen to “Aura Lee” from Jim Reeves,

They have the same melody, and are essentially the same song, which is no surprise since Elvis used the Aura Lee melody on purpose; the point is that Elvis’s song was considerably more popular than any version of Aura Lee, so it can’t have just been the music that made people buy it. What was it then? Well a large part of it was Elvis’s ‘image’, which Dichter (1985) describes as the “total impression an entity makes on the minds of others”, and Elvis made himself the picture of romance, soul and rock and roll. This aspect of musicians then is potentially the biggest driving force to actually buy their music, think of the most famous musicians, they all tend to have a very big persona, with their fame stretching far beyond the songs they’ve sang. Crain and Tollison (2002) confirmed this in their work, showing that the consumer prefers a ‘superstar’, of course it could be argued that one can only become a superstar by making great music to begin with! A quick look at the current charts may persuade you otherwise however…

Image is everything then, in the grander scale at least, but what about to a consumer in a store? What makes them buy one artist’s music over another one? Well an artist’s image is actually fairly important here too; we can essentially consider their image to be their brand, and as Underwood (2002) shows in her work, imagery that associates with a brand will generate a more positive opinion of a product, so when a band uses artwork on their album that ‘fits’ their image, consumers will see it in a positive light.

A fitting album cover for the artist's image...

A fitting album cover for the artist’s image…

Other aspects that may influence the effectiveness of an album in store are its originality, which Pieters, Rosbergen and Hartog (1996) showed in their work – highlighting that repetitive advertising is often ignored – and the relative size and boldness of any advertising, shown to be important by Lohse (1997).

It’s clear then that a band’s image is a large deciding factor in their popularity and by extension their sales; one could argue that the music is more important, but doesn’t the music help to form the image of the band? Once again I’m left with the chicken or the egg dilemma, what do you guys think?

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Blog 6 – Music in Motion

… What makes us watch Music Videos? …

                As I said in last week’s blog, I’m struggling to find much more unique research on music’s influence in the realm of the consumer, and as such, I’m going to twist it around a little bit – instead of looking at the effect of music on consumer research, I’ll be addressing a bit more about how consumer research affects music! We are surrounded by music in day to day life, we hear it on television, we listen to it on the radio, we hear it in shops, we listen to our mp3 players, we even hear it in lifts! With something so apparent it seems obvious that there will be elements of consumer research throughout its marketing, and it most certainly is. One of the primary ways to advertise music is through the use of music videos, and as Sun and Lull (2006) discuss in their research, they are something adolescents spend a lot of time watching, the question is why? Aufderheide (1986) suggests the appeal in music videos are their open-ended quality, which allows viewers to place themselves in an alternate world where the images are reality, he calls them “an accessible form of postmodern art”, and these ideas are certainly possible, who wouldn’t want to step into a make believe world every now and then? Alternatively, Sun and Lull state that it’s because adolescents want to know what music videos ‘mean’, an interesting response, but one that opens up more questions than it answers! Hitchon et al.’s (1994) research also puts Sun and Lulls statement into question, they conducted research looking into the effect of ambiguity and complexity on persuasion and brand attitudes and they found that the less ambiguous a clip was, the higher the quality of brand image and persuasion; perhaps adolescents are just trying to be awkward though?

Awkward Teenagers.

Another thing that might make music videos so popular is the sexual imagery they often use, or so it would seem. Seidman (1992) showed in his research that music videos tend to be filled with gender stereotypes and a “large percentage of female characters [wear] revealing clothing”, and if you spend an hour watching MTV you’d probably be hard pressed to disagree with him. Obviously sexualisation is a popular method in getting people to watch music videos, so it must be an effective marketing method right? Well not necessarily. Severn (1990) used visually explicit sexual stimuli in his research and studied its effect on recall and understanding, he found that whilst the imagery didn’t affect participant’s ability to recall a brand name, it did negatively affect their comprehension of a message, and as such sexual imagery can actually detract attention from the intended target.

An example of some slight sexual imagery… *Ahem* …

                There are a number of reasons we watch music videos, but the real question is do they actually work as marketing tools? Well its somewhat difficult to tell statistically, when songs become popular the videos get played more, which in turn makes them more popular? It’s difficult to know whether the chicken or the egg came first here, but I can definitely say I’ve personally been exposed to certain songs purely because someone recommended the video for it, and in that sense it seems clear they do offer some kind of benefit marketing wise.

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Blog 5 – Forming a Brand… Does Music Lend a Hand?

… Can music help us to form a positive brand image? …

                As the weeks progress it’s becoming more and more difficult to theme my blogs around music, so for this week my blog is going to be more focused on the aspect of brand image, though it will still be directed at how music in particular can affect our perceptions of brands. So to start off with, what is a brand? Well the name originates from the branding of animals with a hot iron stamp – this identifies the animal as belonging to a particular farm, and in the same way, a brand identifies which company a product belongs to,  so brands just show us what products are made by which companies (Kotler, 2002). Brand image is essentially just the concept of a particular brand held by a consumer as noted by Dobni (1990) in his work; Dobni also discusses the difficulty in using the term ‘brand image’ due to its meaning being diluted by many pieces of research using the term interchangeably, however the general meaning remains clear. The question is then, how can we get the consumer to form a positive brand image of a company’s brands?  It would appear that music is one such way.

In her research, Boone (1998) showed participants a number of adverts with or without background music; it was found that the presence of music did strengthen the brand attitude of participants and by extension the brand image. Boone stressed the importance of making the music suit the advert in question however, as without a suitable ‘fit’, the music will have little to no effect on increasing an individual’s attitudes toward the brand.  Park (1986) showed similarities to Boone’s findings in his work, he suggested that the involvement of the consumer in the advert (the personal importance of the advert to them) highly affected the influence music had on their brand attitudes; for consumers who had a low involvement the music had a facilitative effect on their brand attitudes, but for consumers who were highly involved the music actually had a distracting effect, preventing the advert from affecting them the way it should. It’s possible that this is merely due to the high involvement participants already being more aware of the brand and product (as it is more personally important to them) and as such the advert can’t change their already steadfast believes.

So it seems that music can affect our brand image – but only in particular circumstances.  I know the music in adverts has definitely affected my perception of the brand in the past, take the Gears of War advert above for example; when I first saw that advert I felt that the game was going to be strong, emotional and moving, purely because they are the feelings that Mazzy Star’s “Into Dust” brings out in me. It would seem then, that the reason music can affect our brand image is by coaxing us to associate emotions to something that we might not have otherwise. How about you? Noticed any advertisements that have shaped your brand image purely through music?

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Blog 4 – Sublimely Subliminal

… Can subliminal messages make us buy more? …

Okay, so I’m kind of struggling to maintain the music theme now, but one other thing did spring to my mind the other day – subliminal messages. This is the idea that a message can be put into an advert (For the purposes of my theme – into the music in an advert) without the consumer being consciously aware of it, and that the message will affect their behaviour. The idea of subliminal messages have been around for quite a while now, and there has been a lot of concern over their effectiveness – after all, if they truly did work then we could almost be mind-controlled! But, the question remains, do they actually work?

Well, there is some founding in the belief that we can be controlled by our unconscious, with some researchers suggesting it is a key aspect in consumer behaviour (Chartrand, 2005) and others putting forward evidence to support the notion (Dijksterhuis et al., 2005). So if it’s true that information passed through our unconscious can affect our behaviours it seems completely plausible that subliminal messages in music can do the same right?

Egermann et al. (2006) investigated this idea in their research, repeating a word throughout a piece of music just under the threshold of conscious awareness and monitoring participants choice of labelled drinks after the session, but they found no effect… In fact, very little research does find an affect from subliminal advertising, certainly not in the realm of auditory stimulation, but just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean people will stop believing it works…

Take the commonly mentioned ‘messages from the devil’ in certain rock songs for example, when music tracks are reversed sometimes words can be made out – supposedly being messages from Satan… Judas Priest were named as defendants in an unsuccessful lawsuit when a teenager committed suicide after allegedly hearing subliminal messages in one of their songs telling him to ‘do it’, and Vokey and Read (1985) wrote a paper addressing this very phenomena, determining that there is no evidence that reversed messages can affect out behaviour and showing further evidence implying that the ‘messages’ people hear are more likely an active construction on the part of the perceiver. Have a listen to this segment from Stairway to Heaven and see what you can hear in the reversed sample…

Could you make anything out? Here’s what it supposedly says (highlight the text between the stars),

*Here’s to my sweet satan
Who’s one little path would make me sad
Who’s power is satan
He’ll give those with him 666
There was a little toolshed
Where he made us suffer, sad satan.*

So why is there such a strong belief that subliminal messages can control us? Well, James Vicary may be one source of blame for the belief; in the 1950’s Vicary reported that flashing images of “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat Popcorn” in a movie theatre would cause patrons to do exactly that – this struck fear into the people of the time, and why wouldn’t it? Having our behaviour controlled by some other force is a terrifying prospect indeed, however, in the 1970’s it was revealed that Vicary had fabricated the results of his experiment to promote his marketing consultancy, but by that point the stories of subliminal messages had spread too far to be stopped. What are your experiences with subliminal messages then? Do you believe there is some effect? Or do you think it’s just an artefact left behind from a falsified study back in the ‘50’s?

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Blog 3 – Moved to Consume by the Music in the Room!

… Does playing music in stores affect our buying habits? …

As modern human beings, we spend a considerable amount of time shopping, whether it be for food, clothes, or just things to pass away the dreariness of day to day life, and as a result of this it’s a key time for businesses to influence us! One of the many ways consumers are influenced is by background music playing in shops, but does it really make a big difference?

Research in the area seems to show that music does make a difference, but that the positive effect of this can vary; Yalch & Spangenberg (1984) found that playing music could help, but that choosing general preferences may not be the optimal strategy, instead they suggest using a variation of music across areas of the shop that appeal to different aged consumers. It would seem that music in a store only offers a benefit if it is matched with the target consumer then, and much of the research in the area supports this notion; Chabat, Chabat & Vaillant (2001) showed that a variety of music would stimulate cognition in their consumers but highlighted the fact that increased cognition does not always have a positive effect – they go on to suggest that music ‘fit’ explains the negative or positive effects of music, showing that if the music ‘fits’ the consumer, it is more likely to increase their attitudes toward the store, the salesperson and the number of visits they make to the store.



We know music can increase attitudes and visits to a store, but does it actually influence what we spend? Apparently so, according to Areni and Kim (1993) customers spent significantly more money on wine when ‘fitting’ music was played in the store, further supporting the music ‘fit’ theory. It seems then, that for music to effect consumers it has to suit the atmosphere and the consumer, but there are surely more than just preference effects from music right? Some research suggests so; in his review of some of the literature Milliman (1982) showed that the tempo of music could actually influence the speed of in-store traffic flow, so purely by playing slightly faster music we can increase the speed of consumers and by extension the amount of money coming through the store!

It is apparent then that background music in a shop can have a strong effect on our buying habits, but it’s certainly never been something I’ve took particular notice of, have you ever noticed yourself affected by the music playing in a store? Your emotions shifting in such a way that you think it’s okay to splash out for that expensive bottle of Zinfandel? Your feet moving especially fast because Aldi just started blasting out Mambo No. 5? Let me know if you’ve ever felt yourself moved to consume by the music in the room!

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