Can up-tempo music move shoppers to buy more green goods?

Discussion
Photo: @DimaBerlin via Twenty20
Jul 08, 2022

New university research finds up-tempo, major mode music can offer a way for green companies to overcome the consumer “attitude-behavior gap” where what consumers say differs from what they actually do.

Researchers from the University of Bath noted that studies have shown that about 30 percent of consumers claim to care about brand ethics but that a mere three percent translate their words into action. A similar number claim to care about green consumption but only five percent purchase green products.

Their research found major mode music was effective in reducing the attitude-behavior gap by 40 percent to 50 percent. The reason was attributed to the type of music being associated with positive emotions (i.e., happiness, joy) while minor mode music is linked with negative emotions (i.e., sadness, anger).

Since fast tempo music similarly tends to generate positive feelings, the research suggests the attitude-behavior gap is smallest when major mode music is played at a quick tempo.

Music has been found to be processed by the same parts of the brain responsible for emotion and memory, often elevating an emotional response when used in advertising or on selling floors. The reaction, however, can be positive or negative depending on the context and sound.

A study that came out earlier this year from Nanyang Technological University found consumers associated higher-pitched commercials with healthier food products.

At the store level, a university study from 2017 found people buy more in crowded stores if the sound system is playing a fast-paced song rather than a ballad. The study’s advice: “Consider Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga if aisles are packed.”

Many grocers, however, broadcast light music under a theory that minor and downtempo music tends to support more thoughtful browsing.

“In retail, it’s common knowledge that if people walk slower, they see more, which is more likely to trigger them to buy more,” Dr. Megan Phillips, senior lecturer of retailing at Auckland University of Technology’s department of marketing, recently told New Zealand’s Stuff. “They might see something they forgot, or something might be tempting (i.e., a deal too good to turn down).”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that up-tempo, major mode music in marketing can help consumers follow through on their intentions to purchase more ethical and sustainable products? What’s your overall theory on the influence of music in driving purchases in marketing or on selling floors?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"A range of music will prove to be the winning combination."
"Rich and I have always said that disco is the sound of money."
"I have to say that I feel like a milking cow with all the music in the background at grocery stores. And I get really, really embarrassed if I start to sing along."

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15 Comments on "Can up-tempo music move shoppers to buy more green goods?"


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Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I don’t care about the music theory. The studies don’t seem solid enough. I have walked out of stores because of “up-tempo” and way too loud music.

The element in this discussion that concerns me is the second paragraph: “Researchers from the University of Bath noted that studies have shown that about 30 percent of consumers claim to care about brand ethics but that a mere three percent translate their words into action. A similar number claim to care about green consumption, but only five percent purchase green products.”

If this is true, we all have a problem with how the research is conducted or the shoppers are “greenwashing,” just like the manufacturers.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I have no real theory. I have to say that I feel like a milking cow with all the music in the background at grocery stores. And I get really, really embarrassed if I start to sing along.

All it does is make me feel old.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Up-tempo music can be really annoying and distracting, especially when it all starts to sound the same. Change it up to accommodate different tastes and a wide range of shoppers unless shoppers are primarily from one demographic. A range of music will prove to be the winning combination.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Well, this is indeed interesting. I never would have thought Taylor Swift would encourage more conscious consumerism. Maybe it’s my age, but when I think about environmentally conscious artists, I think of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan before I think of Taylor and the Swifties or Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters. I know a few bars of “Big Yellow Taxi” with the legendary, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” lyric always makes me think about my choices, no matter where I am or what I’m doing when I hear that song.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

As a conductor and one who studied music, it is hard to think of many pop songs in a minor key. There are whole companies built around crafting the right music for a business. I think this anecdotal survey proves nothing. The energy in the store is important – thinking it leads to sustainable product purchases is a bigger leap than from major to minor.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen. (minor key).

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I wouldn’t play that in a retail store.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Rich and I have always said that disco is the sound of money. When there are customers in the store and no one is buying crank the music most shoppers know. If you hate disco, pop will do the same thing: It’s the beat that gets everybody going, shoppers stay longer and hopefully buy more. Play it at a comfortable level, the store isn’t a club. You want shoppers of all generations to feel good about choosing your store.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I don’t know if it makes me want to buy more ethical or sustainable product, but it does make the task of shopping move along at a faster pace.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

Match the music to the type of store/demographic with a range of music to avoid inadvertently annoying shoppers who don’t agree with some of the music choices.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Music and audio messaging has been proven to influence shopper behavior. Brands should take this science and art much more seriously than they currently do. Brands are missing a great opportunity to optimize their brand identity and customer experience. I’m perplexed by the University of Bath research as I’ve proposed an audio measurement and content project with a sport shoe retailer. Audio and music have incredibly powerful emotional affinity with shoppers. Delivering an optimized brand audio content strategy and experience is inexpensive and powerful.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

While fascinating, the research cited here seems like another classic instance of “it depends.”

Shoppers’ emotional responses to in-store audio will vary greatly according to their age cohort, preferred genres, and other demographics. It would be easy to select a heavy metal soundtrack for a skateboard shop, but much harder to work up a pleasing, middle-of-the-road playlist for a supermarket whose customers range from teens to blue-hairs.

I get the insight about the optimism conveyed by lively, major key music. I’m skeptical, however, about the link to sustainable purchase choices.

Christina Cooley
Guest
Though customers definitely want to do the right things regarding the environment and brands can differentiate accordingly, J.D. Power still finds that other drivers will trump environmental friendliness in driving purchase decisions. For example, in the J.D. Power Paint Satisfaction Study, only 6% of customers indicated they purchased their interior paint because it was environmentally friendly. The largest drivers remain past experience with a brand, color desired, price, good reviews, and recommendations. Music absolutely has an impact in the retail environment, and any environment for that matter. In the J.D. Power Home Improvement Retailer Study, the Store Experience is the largest driver of Customer Satisfaction, even over Merchandise and Pricing. Retailers set the tone for their shoppers and with music that can have an external-internal-external effect. Customers hear the music, it affects their emotions and how they are thinking about that shopping experience, and then that impacts how they approach the products they are shopping for. I believe music can affect merchandise selections, quantity, time spent in the store, and how the customer engages with… Read more »
Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

No, no, no. First even linking music to purchases of green goods is on the verge of absurd. Studies from Nanyang Technological University (located in Singapore) are undoubtedly suspect, since they don’t focus on USA purchasing patterns, USA retailers, or even a major institution to conduct the study. We also have no idea of the basis of the study, how many questions were asked, and the number of participants queried. This entire article seems to be very suspect, at best and the conclusions it draws are even more so.

Mark
Guest
16 days 22 hours ago

I agree with those who say that uptempo music is annoying and distracting, especially very loud. Soft music may be pleasant. I, too, have walked out of stores rather than purchase a needed item. I even complained to management.

Music is very subjective and may provoke the opposite of the intended effect. Also surveys may be invalid or inapplicable to a location, such as California or New York. Studies in other nations will not apply to U.S. Insufficient or unrepresentative subjects, volume of sound and type/age of customer are factors that invalidate surveys.

How about no music?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"A range of music will prove to be the winning combination."
"Rich and I have always said that disco is the sound of money."
"I have to say that I feel like a milking cow with all the music in the background at grocery stores. And I get really, really embarrassed if I start to sing along."

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