Why music is a powerful tool for brands — and how they can leverage it

Marketing is a tough job and it’s only getting tougher. Every day, brands face increasing amounts of competition in the battle for consumers’ attention spans. The proliferation of content is staggering; last year, Google alone received about 4 million search queries every minute of every day, according to ACI.

In the midst of this exploding landscape, there’s one thing that has remained remarkably consistent — the universal appeal and power of music. Music is a powerful way of connecting with those around us, and that makes it a powerful tool for brands. Consider the following:

  • Music is one of the few mediums where consumers put on a device (headphones) to actively eliminate the distractions around them. Anyone riding public transportation can attest to the fact that you won’t get too many answers out of someone wearing headphones. You also might miss your intended stop if you’re immersed in a great song.
  • Music is a passion point for an exceedingly large number of people. The number of people who’ve viewed Justin Bieber’s playlists on Vevo is larger than the combined population of the world’s two most populous countries, China and India.
  • Music triggers memories of messages, experiences, and other moments. Scientists at UC Davis, Live Science reported, used brain scans to show how music and recall are intrinsically linked. When we think about key moments in our lives, there’s a high likelihood we’ll remember a song along with the memory or the song will trigger memories of an event.

That considered, how can brands take advantage of the immense audio opportunity? It’s a matter of doing these three things well:

1. Lay down the melody and get the foundation right

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IMAGE: LUKE LEONARD/MASHABLE

Like any other marketing endeavor, generating marketing successes through music means understanding what you’re trying to accomplish and being very clear on what music is intended to help you do. It’s critical to have a solid understanding of the brand, its positioning, the public’s perception of it and the role that it plays in a consumer’s life. If you as a brand don’t know where you’re going, music isn’t going to get you there. After all, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

2. It’s all about that bass … and data

Content creation is a combination of both art and science — the data helps make that art more precise. I recently read about the compelling music in one advertiser’s television commercial; when asked how it was chosen, the advertiser proudly stated that the art director happened to bump into a DJ friend who mentioned the track. This is an amazing example of serendipity, but

serendipity is not a viable long term strategy or business model.

serendipity is not a viable long term strategy or business model.

With the advent of digital music platforms, data is becoming more and more available to influence insight-driven decisions. With the right partnerships in place, you can identify the best genre, artist, song, etc. for your target audience.

For example, our Sensory+ initiative at Mindshare works with partners like Spotify and Shazam on audio workshops to understand what the role of audio may be for the brand, what audio elements a brand should own and protect and how those elements can come to life in the short and long term.

Moreover, partnerships like this can identify what music is current, what music is old and what music is to come. The sound that’s right for your brand may be one you’ve never heard before.

3. Like jazz, sometimes you need to riff

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IMAGE: MASHABLE, CHRIS MINESES

Identifying the right audio space is critical — a long-term, consistent audio relationship can build tons of affinity for your brand. Why? As demonstrated in an April article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, people process repetitive song lyrics more fluently and adopt them faster than they do other types of song lyrics. If your brand is strongly associated with a particular musician, a style of music or song, it may get a boost when that tune is heard outside of your content.

In any partnership with a content creator, there are many details that aren’t under your control, and sometimes things go off the rails. Countless brands have had to deal with the downside of a prominent spokesperson’s private life issues — just look at what’s happened with several high-profile NFL stars over the last year.

When an artist does something incendiary or a competitor starts imitating your strategy, you need to adapt quickly to fix it and stand out. The key is to ensure that you’ve got the right infrastructure in place (people, process and technology) to monitor, optimize and adapt when market conditions change.