Chris Wilcox says that while many stores, salons and restaurants play music, is it giving the right message? And more importantly, what song are you?
Words by Chris Wilcox, Music & Media Manager of Pel Services
'What song are you?' In a brief moment of downtime the other day I did one of those online personality tests, where the resulting song is meant to represent your personality. I shared it with my friends on Facebook and soon they were all at it.
It was just a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously... Or was it 'just a bit of fun'? The comments among my friends and I hint at something more fundamental. Those songs represent a common experience; a common language we could all engage in and that we actively chose to do so. You see, music is undeniably powerful. Yet it is also intimate and often subliminal.
The High Street plugged in to the power of music a long time ago. It's now rare to enter a store and not hear music, whether it's in the background or front/centre throughout -- sometimes at club volume! But the choice of a playlist can be hit and miss -- or lazy and formulaic, directly affecting the intended shopper experience for the worse. Frequently, individual store staff are left to improvise by plugging in their mp3 player with their own choice of tracks on shuffle, which can be the polar opposite of what the brand represents.
It's my belief that the time has come for retail and leisure brands to pay expert attention to their brand soundtrack. This is often something that falls between the gaps, but if you are involved in the 'look' of these facilities, then also consider the 'sound' of them, as they often go hand in hand. Music represents an excellent opportunity to reinforce the interior design, providing a richer overall brand experience. It's about matching the music directly to the brand and, just as importantly, to the customer.
And that's not as easy as you might think. It involves a clear understanding of the brand and its target market's emotional and rational desires and habits.
The delivery of that music then needs to be flexible enough to accommodate that brand's customer requirements as they change throughout the day and may well vary across different regions. So what's playing in a London flagship store at 6pm on a Friday might be slightly different to a smaller outlet in, say, Bath. And what's playing in that same Bath outlet at 6pm is likely to be different to what was playing at 10.30am that same morning.
Leaving the soundtrack to 'shuffle' should never be an option, as it takes a knowledgeable ear to translate a brand into audio, to adapt that sound to different demographics and to apply that audio-branding consistently, but adaptively, over days, weeks, months and years.
I know that for large retailers with multiple stores, an in-house 'Live Radio' feel syndicated over its stores has been one highly effective solution, albeit an expensive one. However, for the majority of retailers the outlay is rather prohibitive. Not that this should rule out smart forms of pre-recorded, in-house radio -- bespoke pre-recorded radio shows, but without the expense of your own dedicated radio station.
Services such as this, including PEL's MediainStore, can be very flexible in that they can incorporate music, a DJ, ads and in-store promotions.
A cost-effective alternative that is highly popular with smaller high-street organisations, from retailers through to hair salons, health clubs, restaurant chains and car dealerships, is a music-only supply service. The provider works with the client to create a simple music playlist that reflects the brand image and customer profile. In the case of our MusicStore service this is updated monthly, either by broadband or CD to be downloaded on to a hard-disc music player in each location. It's very affordable and a very easy-to-use service, hence its popularity.
Getting a brand's soundtrack tone and balance right doesn't have to be overly complicated or expensive, but it does need to be done by professionals who understand the brand and have a wealth of music knowledge. Whether your customer has the budget to be able to invest in in-store radio (live or pre-recorded), or has more modest means, there is a music supply service out there to meet a wide range of budgets and requirements.
Oh yes, my song! In case you're still wondering, from that online test it was that 2006 classic by the Scissor Sisters. I think that's just ridiculous... I always 'feel like dancin'!