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Sound Advertising: A Review of the Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Music in Commercials on Attention, Memory, Attitudes, and Purchase Intention

David Allan, Ph.D.
Department of Marketing
Saint Joseph's University

Online Publication Date: October 23, 2007

Journal of Media Psychology, Volume 12, No. 3, Fall, 2007

Abstract

This article reviews the empirical studies on the interaction of music and the hierarchy of advertising effects, or specifically attention, memory, attitudes and purchase intention. The most relevant literature is analyzed through the formation of two comprehensive tables of theories and experiments. Music variables such as appeal, fit, melody, mood, tempo, texture, tonality, and valence are shown to influence consumer attitude toward the ad and the brand, recall, pleasure and arousal, and purchase intention. This review provides a summary of the results and the foundation for future research into sound advertising.

Introduction
It is almost impossible to turn on the radio or the television, or walk into a retail establishment and not witness the marriage of art and commerce. Even before the days of media and malls, music was a major force in consumer marketing. Without exception, music plays a vital role in the interactive process of consumer behavior. The commercial uses of music in marketing account for billions of dollars nationwide. Not surprisingly, this area of study has received considerable attention primarily focused on the impact of music on consumer responses to commercial advertising. There are many stimuli, or environmental cues, that retailers use to affect consumer behavior including music, color, scents, etc. Music is considered to be the most commonly studied stimulus variable (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Most retailers would agree that music is one of their most important considerations and expenses (Yalch & Spangenberg, 1993). Billions of dollars are spent worldwide on music in the retail environment (North & Hargreaves, 1998). Past reviews of experimental evidence in this area have included music as part of a larger review of atmospheric effects (Lam, 2001; Turley & Milliman, 2000), and more narrowly focused on just its effect on shopping behavior (Allan, in press).

There are also many stimuli, or executional cues, that advertisers use to affect consumer response to commercials including music, spokespersons, animation, etc. Music is also considered to be the most used executional cue in commercials (Yalch, 1991). Dunbar (1990, p. 200) argued that “music makes you watch or listen [to advertising] in a different way” than commercials without music and adds an emotional dimension to the consumer response to the brand.

While it should not be surprising that the effect of music on advertising has been extensively researched, it should be surprising that a current, comprehensive, and critical review of the literature has not been completed. Bruner (1990) provided an early collection of relevant research involving music and advertising as part of the literature review for his “Music, Mood and Marketing” but that is now more than a decade old. North and Hargreaves (1997) updated the list as part of a larger chapter (“Music and Consumer Behaviour”) on the commercial and industrial uses of music (advertising, shops and the music industry) in The Sociology of Music. TThis article then, has three purposes. First, it is a review of the most important studies involving music and advertising beginning with the most relevant definitions (Table 1). Second, it is a synthesis and comparison of variables and results. Third, based on what has been done and how it has been executed, it is a foundation and facilitation for future research.

Table 1
A Summary of Relevant Definitions_______________________________________...
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