The Sound Sets the Tone

How to use the emotional power of music in marketing.

"Talking about music is like dancing about architecture," the legendary Frank Zappa once said. And yet, we have to talk about it because the use of music in brand communication is not always ideal. While the advertising world hotly debates the importance and value of content marketing, music is an essential form of content that forms an integral part of most campaigns and is at the same time so often neglected.

The Current Situation

Who’s never heard statements like these: "The music in the mood film was actually quite good. We'll take it." "We hadn't really factored music into in the budget. Isn't there a cheap version without fees and royalties?" "My daughter really likes Lady Gaga. Can't we use her?" Statements that expose the superficiality that damage brands in the long term. It's hard to believe that in our industry, in which we try to calculate everything in advance and optimize it, that we deal with an essential design element of our communication so unprofessionally.

Although we now have music-specific data pertaining to big data and objective criteria, the use of music is governed by chance, spontaneous gut decisions or simple disinterest. This is the everyday reality in agencies and marketing departments. Hardly a campaign briefing contains key points for a music strategy for a brand. Visual style guides are created and brand cores are defined, yet when it comes to a strategy for audio and music? Rarely the case. And that's a fundamental error!

Why music?

After all, we are rhythmically formed by the sound of our mother's heartbeat before our birth at the tender age of eighteen weeks, long before we ever get our first visual impression of our world. Over 80% of our population listen to music actively and on a daily basis. Each of us own over six different devices for the music consumption. Why? Through study results, we have learned that we want to consciously or unconsciously change our moods, highly motivating ourselves for fitness training or relaxing on the ride home. Everyone knows the moving feeling of singing their favorite song in chorus with a thousand other fans at a concert. Everyone has felt the goosebumps and the silent tears manifested by the music at the many milestones in our lives: the wedding march, the funeral procession, the poorly intonated "Happy Birthday" song by colleagues. Music connects people, starts conversations and creates unforgettable experiences.

This expression of the emotional connection is sharpened even more in our digital world. 40% of all social media users include music in their personal profiles. That's because we define ourselves through music and interact with it. Music is a part and expression of our personality.

And now?

Of course, brands have long recognized this in themselves and yet there are only a few praiseworthy exceptions to the rule that are able to boost their brand profile emotionally with a real audio strategy, e.g. Coca-Cola, Apple, Vodafone, McDonalds or Telekom. They all know the factors for successful storytelling: emotion, dialogue, exclusivity and experience. Music contributes to all four of these factors. Numerous current studies show that consumer decisions are increasingly driven by emotional values rather than functional advantages. This underpins the true potential of music for marketing. Within seconds, the mood and feelings of a target group can be directly addressed, turning customers into fans of a brand.

How quickly a seemingly dusty brand like Edeka can be repositioned in people’s minds by means of music, two years ago the "Super Geil" campaign, driven by the strange song of the Berlin-based artist Friedrich Liechtenstein. The music forms the basis for a perfectly staged digital storytelling across all channels. In addition to the millions of views on YouTube, the broad media coverage and the resulting public discussion of the achievement of the communication goal: it all gave the brand a new emotional identity.

The road to a successful strategy

It's not enough to simply choose some arbitrary title that reflects the current spirit of the time and use it in the communication of the brand. To develop the right strategy, each brand should address the following questions:

What message can music send for my brand?

Which sound authenticates the positioning, personality and core values of my brand?

Which music projects can be realized with a partner in the music industry to a mutual benefit?

Ultimately, the magic word "integration" comes to mind. Music must be integrated into the brand positioning and it must be a long-term planned part of the marketing strategy – a part of the DNA of the brand.

In his role as COO of Coca-Cola, Steven Heyer once said that "erosion in mass markets and the trend towards personalization is driving marketing into an experience-oriented economy." Music is THE medium to bring experience-oriented marketing communication to life in an emotional way. Armin Jochum was quoted in the Handelsblatt as follows: "Music is the most underestimated force of advertising. The right music has the power to make a blockbuster out of an advertising spot. The right music can give small stories a degree of greatness. It opens up new spaces in one's head, in the gut and in the heart and far faster than market and brain researchers can begin to measure."

This is precisely why music must be recovered from the end of the agency's food chain and rescued from being an annoying task relegated to production companies. It must be brought back to the chef's table as a fundamental component of brand management.

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