Tuned In: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Music and Brand Culture

Something transformative happens at Activaire when we synchronize a client’s brand with music culture; the brand story springs to life and continues to evolve! Music is a lens that adds hue and dimension to the brand story, and that story shifts and changes depending on the lens.

There are myriad studies about the role of music in marketing. That music improves both brand favorability and brand recall has been measured and shared by multiple agencies. It’s so exciting to have proof of what we feel is intrinsically true, but I want to talk from my experience about what music adds to the brand story at the contextual level.

  • Music as the Brand’s Heartbeat
  • Synergy Between Music and Brand Culture
  • Music’s “Stickiness” in Culture
  • Understanding Culture’s Evolution
  • Integrating Music Early in Branding
  • Win-Win for Emerging Artists and Brands
  • The Importance of Well-Established Brand Values
  • Avoiding Overused Cultural Associations
  • Leveraging Music for Brand Differentiation

Music as the Brand’s Heartbeat

On a fundamental level, music brings so much to the table. It injects tempo, melody, intensity, and cultural context into the brand experience. Music is the brand’s heartbeat, setting the pace and guiding customers on their journey within the environment. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat said, “Art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.”  

This is a significant concept for retailers, where dwell time is king because it correlates directly to sales! 

Music fills in the auditory dimension of space, which is really important because our ears are constantly processing information; we are always hearing and listening. Music unifies an environment to give it some flow. Music can warm up a flat and sterile environment or, conversely, unify a cacophonic mix of visual and spatial elements. Melodies and tempo create direction, which helps us “get with the program” of the brand story.

Synergy Between Music and Brand Culture

But what makes this process even more fascinating is the synergy between music and brand culture; they intertwine to create new and exciting meanings. It’s not unlike when a DJ seamlessly blends two songs into a unique composition called a “mashup.” A classic example is Whitney Houston and Kraftwerk in “I Wanna Dance with Numbers” by Girls on Top, which has an entirely separate cultural meaning from either of the two artists in the piece. 

The same phenomenon happens with brands and music; the brand story and the musical context merge to craft something entirely new within the cultural landscape. They become inseparable, especially when this fusion occurs early in the artist’s release or musical journey. 

Music’s “Stickiness” in Culture

Music has an exceptional ability to adhere to culture; I like to say that music is “sticky” because it swiftly adopts cultural significance based on where it’s played, heard, and “lives.” For instance, if you first encounter a song in a store, that brand experience becomes ingrained in the song’s cultural identity. However, suppose a store plays music from an existing cultural scene that doesn’t authentically align with the brand story; the music might seem out of place, and the brand feels like it’s reaching.

Understanding Culture’s Evolution

Now, let’s delve into the concept of culture itself, which can take on different meanings in various contexts. In human terms, it refers to how societies organize their lives and express their identity, while in biology, it pertains to cultivating microorganisms like bacteria or yeast. In both cases, culture evolves and adapts, preserving its core elements while adjusting to changing conditions. This notion of propagation and maintenance is crucial in understanding the magic of music and branding.

Integrating Music Early in Branding

Returning to the enchanting synergy between music and branding, when brands take the initiative and integrate music early on, they ride the artist’s trajectory. The brand experience becomes intertwined with the artist’s journey, benefiting both sides; the artist’s trajectory and the brand experience fuse and create a fresh cultural entity.

Win-Win for Emerging Artists and Brands

For emerging artists, early association with a brand provides invaluable exposure. The artist gains access to a comprehensive ecosystem of value, business opportunities, and consumer identity. 

It’s a win for the brand because by connecting with an audience that is emotionally engaged with the artist, the brand gains instant fans. It’s akin to investing in stocks before they skyrocket- you can only gain if you are there before others (otherwise, you’re just telling someone else’s brand story.)  

The Importance of Well-Established Brand Values

Establishing a strong connection with artists based on well-defined values benefits both the brand and the artist. Brands often hesitate to support emerging artists, fearing they might not gain an audience. To overcome this uncertainty, brands should have clear values and a broad understanding of the music landscape.

The music industry is filled with talented artists in the early stages of their careers who could benefit from support. The partnership is seamless when a brand’s story is straightforward and aligns with an artist’s values. The level of traction an artist gains becomes less important; what matters is the alignment of messages and values, creating an authentic and genuine narrative.

Sometimes, we witness brands competing for artists from a limited pool, which results in forced messaging that doesn’t benefit anyone.

Avoiding Overused Cultural Associations

On the flip side, brands that exclusively tap into well-established artists always find themselves in a pool of overused cultural associations. The novelty has worn off. There are exceptions, of course, when an artist maintains a consistent, enduring trajectory. Even so, using a widely played track can shorten dwell time and disrupt the flow, diminishing the overall brand experience. Relying on an overplayed soundtrack can lead a brand down the path of irrelevance—a “been there, done that” scenario.

Leveraging Music for Brand Differentiation

Every brand has a unique story to tell. Activaire focuses on the signature aspects of a brand story. We leverage music to emphasize these aspects, giving brands a competitive edge, especially in crowded markets with similar products, prices, and audiences. Authentic and consistent music can set a brand apart, ensuring it stays relevant and resonates deeply with its audience.

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