Your instore music profile: Narrow or wide?


When implementing music in a television commercial, you can choose that one perfect song to match your brand and message. When it comes to instore music, things are a bit more complicated. You will need multiple hours of music to keep your employees motivated and update regularly to keep things fresh and contemporary. The fact that you need more music, means you will have to deviate from that one perfect song. The question is: how far? Should you build a narrow profile of very specific songs? Or a wide profile with broad appeal?

Let’s look at the implications.

The width of a music profile has a profound impact on its overall feel. Think about the average pop music radio channel. Often times such radio channels cover a rather wide musical spectrum. From Queen to Eminem and from The Beatles to Lady Gaga. The programmers behind these channels make conscious decisions about this ‘programming width’. The high variety keeps people interested and makes for an acceptable average for most (potential) listeners.

This is why many retailers copy this approach instore. Supermarkets have a notoriously broad target audience, so playing a very broad music profile is likely to contain ‘something for everyone’.

Another reason why many retail chains choose a wide pop-derived musical backdrop is because employees find this least bothersome when working long shifts. Personnel is highly likely to complain about the music if it is not to their taste. A wide program, based on pop music is middle of the road and unoffensive and therefore the least likely to trigger complaints.

A third reason to choose a wide music profile is that it is simple to update. With tolerant selection criteria, a lot of new releases will fit the profile and therefore it is very easy to find new music to add over time. This is particularly beneficial for your music supplier, since it saves time and effort.

So there you have three reasons to pick a wide music profile: 1. Broad appeal. 2. Few complaints. 3. Easy to update. Now let’s look at situations where a narrower profile might be more beneficial.

You might, for instance, argue that being ‘acceptable for everyone’ equals being ‘loved by nobody’. A broad music profile might not offend anybody, but it is not likely to really blow you away either. It will sound unsurprising and rather like the music playing in the shop next door. And the one next to that.

This is where we find the key issue. A broad profile sounds common whereas a narrower profile can be made to sound very specific. This means you can communicate a more specific message with a narrower profile. Picking less music, that is closer to your core brand image makes for a more recognizable musical backdrop that sends a much stronger brand message. This enhances the overall immersive experience that visitors will have.

Another issue of the wide profile is that it is very dynamic in multiple areas. The overall sound will shift in timbre, intensity and style, taking great leaps between songs. This might trigger interest on the radio, when actively listening. Instore music, however, has a radically different ‘background’ function. Every time such a big change in music takes place, consumers are momentarily distracted from what you want them to focus on.

As always, it all comes down to your strategy. Narrow and wide music profiles both have pros and cons. It is up to you to make a conscious decision, based on your formula and strategic approach.

And if you need a little help, feel free to get in touch!

Thomas van Straaten
Instore media consultant

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