Sound bite: Two shops compared

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I got a lot of great reactions from you guys to previous „sound bite” posts, so I thought I’d up the ante and throw two sound bites into a single article. Oh yes, this is your lucky day!

I was clinging on to my girlfriend, who was on a mild shopping spree, when I ran into two different shops that had a surprising musical backdrop. Both were playing music that did not really fit their overall look and feel. Both had a strong mismatch  between brand and music. But in some strange way one really worked out, while the other did not. Let’s take a look at it!

Here’s a piece of audio I recorded in the first shop.

While those screaming synthesizers might be reminiscent of a club or maybe a youth fashion store, this was actually recorded in a high end shoe store. A mismatch if there ever was one! Such aggressive pop music communicates a very low end image. It might add some trendiness, but in a classical shoe store environment there is really no need for that.

Even worse, it was commercial radio playing. This means you have no control over music programming at all. And if you are unlucky, you will even broadcast a competitor’s commercial in your shop!

I suspect the source of the problem lies with store personnel in this case. There were only young girls working that afternoon. To be very honest, this fact on its own was already diffusing brand experience. But if you do not properly implement a music strategy, this is what a gang of young girls will do to your store image!

Triggerpulling instore music score: 2/10
Seriously, it is better to turn off the music all together than have such a strong mismatch between formula and music confuse your visitors.

Now let’s look at another surprising music choice:

This tropical recording was made in a girls’ accessory shop. A trendy little place with all sorts of scarfs, bijoux and fashion accessories. The latin music is rationally misplaced here. There is absolutely no link between this chain and the latin world. The clean, modern look of the shop would not exactly trigger a connection to traditional South American music either.

Still, somehow this really works. The vibe was laid back and relaxed, but at the same time very, very positive. Though I cannot prove it, I suspect this kind of music will have a positive impact on sales in this store.

Triggerpulling instore music score: 8/10
Surprising, fresh, relaxing and extremely positive. A daring choice. And one that really works out well.

Music/Brand matching (or audio branding, or sonic branding) is the art of finding music that somehow reflects the key values of a brand. This way, cues from different senses will work together to create a stronger brand experience. Research has shown that this strongly aides impact and long term recall.

There are, however, great examples of conscious mismatching as well. Playing music that really does not fit the brand at hand at all, can work very well. Main reasons to opt for mismatching is to create tension or surprise, which could maximize attention and impact. So called „stopping power”. In my modest opinion, the latin music in the accessory shop is a great example.

The shoe store is more of an example how the wrong music can break down a carefully crafted instore experience. Different sensorial cues point in different directions, leading to an incongruent and confusing experience.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is once more to be aware of what you are doing. Make conscious choices, based upon a solid strategic foundation and you will be on the right track.

Thomas van Straaten
Instore media consultant

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