5 Tips for Selecting the Right Music for Your Brand

Retail and music go hand in hand. Try to imagine walking through a shopping mall without hearing music wafting out of all the stores. Or turning on your TV to find that the ads don’t have a music soundtrack. The love affair between corporate brands and music isn’t a one-way street either…As one of many examples, Chuck Berry name-checked Cadillac in one of the very first rock ‘n’ roll songs, “Maybellene.”

The positive correlation between music and shopping isn’t surprising given the emotional, visceral impact music has on people. While sports, movies, and television also inspire powerful emotions, music has the unique ability to be part of the overall experience without dominating. These qualities make music ideally suited to businesses for winning and keeping their customers.

Starbucks is just one example of a company that’s made music a key part of its brand positioning. The story of how this came to be—with an early employee seeking out ways to spice up the in-store musicexemplifies how something as modest as song selection can have a big impact on the customer experience.

While an essential component of any marketer’s toolkit, music should always be used strategically. This topic has been researched for many decades and there’s an awful lot published online. Given Feed.fm’s first-hand expertise pairing music and brands, we recommend companies consider the following 5 tips for their own music selection

  1. The most obvious tip is also the most important: Make sure there’s an intuitive, consistent connection with your company’s brand. If there’s a mismatch between the music and your brand, results can range from distracting to damaging...potentially driving your customers away. Consider what is the typical, or intended, mood associated with your brand. Perhaps brainstorm a few words to describe your business or desired atmosphere…do these words align with any music genres and/or artists?
  2. Understand the music preferences of your target customer, designing playlists around their tastes. This doesn’t necessarily require research or focus groups, though the more information you have about customers’ preferences the better. You can sometimes mirror customer preferences by curating music around your most passionate employees, possibly using them as a litmus test. Some questions to consider: does your customer prefer old classics they know and love or new music, in which case your company can help them discover new artists and songs? Pay attention to customer feedback, whether this is something directly observable or can be determined by reviewing usage data for your company’s digital music. As you fine-tune the music that accompanies shopping, strive to find a balance between human and computer-powered song selection.
  3. Choose tempo carefully by reviewing behavioral studies on how your target customer responds to music played at various speeds. For in-store music, also consider the ideal volume to motivate desired results. When in doubt, keep tunes in the background to enhance the ambiance versus serving as a focal point. In general, it’s better to achieve a more subliminal connection through music than to create a distracting, unpleasant listening experience for your customer. Regarding music in your digital space: For many companies this is low-hanging fruit that can significantly, immediately drive conversion and engagement. While the research in this area is younger, there are already many studies that demonstrate the ways music can positively affect online behavior. Scroll to Section 5 of this article for some tempo and selection pointers.
  4. Make sure you’re doing things legally to avoid copyright infringements or legal suits. It’s important to understand that the music industry is a highly complex environment where copyright holders will aggressively go after parties that they believe have infringed upon those rights. For a primer on music streaming and licensing, check out this article.
  5. Make sure the music evolves with the brand and your story, updating playlists more or less frequently depending on your target customer. Keep this in mind as your company prepares to launch specific marketing campaigns, as these may suggest ways you can tweak your music formula to reinforce the overall messaging. There’s also an opportunity for music to help tell the longer-term story about your company. Not many brands are name-checked in the title of hit songs—like Run-DMC's classic “My Adidas”—but Adidas was savvy enough to capitalize on the early hip-hop association while finding ways to encompass and directly support other music styles and artists over the years.

The chief digital officer of LVMH and former Beats Music and Apple Music executive Ian Rogers has great expertise in understanding the relationship between music and brands. When interviewed at a recent Business of Fashion event, Rogers began by drawing a simple parallel between the worlds of music and fashion/retail: at their essence both are about selling culture. As you consider the right music for your own brand, make sure that the cultural message your customers receive is consistently resonant.