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Research reveals power of music in advertising

May 19, 2022

SoundOut, in partnership with the Music, Mind and Brain Research Group of Goldsmiths, University of London, has published the results of a year-long study into the emotional impact of music on consumers. The findings reveal the subconscious impact of music – and, crucially, how it differs from the conscious response.

The report, titled A large-scale investigation into the effects of music in advertising, builds on SoundOut and Goldsmiths’ work mapping the conscious emotional impact that music has on consumers.

Largely financed by the UK government’s Innovate Fund, the project was of unprecedented scale and ambition both in the field of academia and commerce. The findings provide a rigorous foundation for a suite of technology tools that will enable brands and agencies to harness the emotional impact of music to strengthen brand associations.

Mapping the subconscious DNA of sound

Having already mapped the conscious emotional DNA of music, this research study has not only mapped the subconscious emotional DNA of sound but also enabled emotional amplitudes to be measured and quantified. This enabled a robust analysis of the similarities and differences between how music emotionally impacts consumers on both a conscious and subconscious level. This is a major breakthrough for the use of music by brands. It enables them to have a strategic plan for when and how to use music at both a conscious and subconscious level.

The report reveals that the right music can increase the emotional response to a video by up to 16.4 per cent, depending on the emotional attribute being evaluated. Music is particularly powerful in changing the subconscious response for attributes such as Peaceful, Intense and Defiant – but less so for others – e.g. Technical, Spontaneous and Simple. Understanding this impact is important when selecting appropriate testing methodologies for music in branding and advertising.

Taking the findings of the report, SoundOut is now launching a fully-benchmarked, subconscious test for music, with strong reliability and validity to ensure that commercial music choices are both on-brand and reinforce the key attributes that a brand wishes to communicate.

David Courtier-Dutton, Founder and CEO of SoundOut, said: “This research is of an unprecedented scale and depth, leveraging the expertise of some of the pre-eminent music psychologists in the world and inputs from over 600,000 consumers from around the world. It delivers a rigorous framework for testing the emotional impact of music, both on a conscious and subconscious basis.

“In branding, advertising and social media, music is rarely, if ever, used in isolation. Instead, it is used to reinforce the mood or narrative of the message being delivered by an advert or marketing initiative and, ideally, the brand personality. As a result, musical effectiveness is principally reliant on emotional synchronisation with visual content to optimise the desired subconscious response. Benchmarking and measurement of this is therefore fundamental to optimising effectiveness. SoundOut will now use this research and map of the subconscious emotional DNA of music to develop a suite of tools. These will enable brands to identify the best music choices for brand and marketing impact at both a conscious and subconscious level.”

Professor Daniel Müllensiefen, Co-director of the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “The ability to run a study of this scale and ambition represents a huge step forward for the use of music in branding and marketing and adds considerably to the scientific understanding of the psychology of music. In addition, it has created a robust academic foundation for testing the subconscious impact of music in the commercial world.”

Seb Silas, a Goldsmiths research scientist working on the project, added: “We intuitively know that music has the ability to influence our mood, and that it is used frequently to guide narrative and elicit certain sentiments in movies and TV. While the role of music in advertising is as pervasive, it has been less understood. Our results show that music even has the power to influence the way we perceive short visual scenes and imagery, like those used in advertising. Moreover, these effects can happen subconsciously in the perceiver, and differ depending on what sentiment you want to target. We are now able to predict such effects in a more detailed way than before, which is extremely useful to academics and practitioners alike.”

Categories: Advertising, Articles, Consumer Behaviour, Research

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