Scientists tell us that our senses of smell are one of the most powerful triggers for memory. Music is also a powerful emotional force. We all have a song that reminds us of a high school moment or a favorite movie. Maybe there’s a song that reminds you of high school graduation, or that first kiss. Perhaps a tune is associated with your first car. So how is this relevant to small business marketing?
Many’s the time I go into a small brick and mortar business and I hear the local radio station playing. Okay, fine, but what about when the advertisement comes on for the competition or, in California, the local pot store? You spend hours and hours deciding which book cases are the right ones for “your look” and then put a lousy radio in the corner playing the terrible local radio station?
When you go to Disneyland you’ll notice that each of the different rides in the park has its own theme song. Disney understands the emotional value of a melody and how it can stir emotions in their customers. They call it Disney magic but it’s really science and psychology hard at work.
This was something I was adamant about in the resort I owned. We actually had our own low-power FM transmitter and I used a program called MegaSeg to play from specific playlists at specific times of the day. Since the resort was made of vintage railroad cabooses, we played peppy, upbeat train songs in the morning. When breakfast was ready I’d play Everybody Eats When They Come to My House and Food, Glorious Food. At noon, when guests were supposed to check out, we’d play The Beatles Hello, Goodbye.
Our alarm clocks actually had a button on them that automatically tuned-in the radio station and we played it in the lobby and dining room and even on the front porch from a vintage radio. We had a lot of guests make comments about the music. Most of them were even positive.
While not everybody is going to take the same effort in this level of detail, there are alternatives to the terrible local radio station with its advertisements. For example, there are music services from Apple, Pandora and Spotify that let you at least choose a genre and the electronic DJs do a pretty good job of playing music of that type. Of course satellite radio also has very specific categories, one of which may ideally suit your business.
And who could forget the brand Muzak and how it became associated with background music - they still exist but are today called Mood Music.
If a venue has live musical performances, it would make a lot of sense to set up cameras and microphones and record those performances. Then play back videos of those performances at times when there wasn’t live music. This would be a great source of music but would also advertise that you have live music and would help promote the performers who had been there. That same MegaSeg program can play back video or audio and it would be super cool to play back videos of performers from your venue at your venue.
Of course you could just purchase a music playback device like an iPod (yes, they still sell those!) and tie it into a sound system and choose the soundtrack of your business. You’ll get tired of the same songs over and over but your customers will recognize those as the soundtrack of your business.
This brings a funny story. If I never ever hear YMCA by the Village People ever again it will be too soon. In my early years as a wedding DJ this was a must play at every event. While I heard it week in and week out my customers and their guests reveled in the novelty of hearing this song. So I burned out on it. But I would still play it because that’s what stirred the emotions in my customers.
You can bet I also tired of the same train songs we heard every day and the team would complain, but the customers loved them. Remember, your physical location is a place that makes your customers happy. You can bet that the Disneyland cast members who work the Alice in Wonderland ride get tired of the Unbirthday Song rather quickly but I am always happy to hear it when I go and hop on that ride.
I’m obsessive about the music in my world because I understand what a powerful emotional tool it is. Stirring those emotions in customers is just another opportunity to make a difference in the experience you deliver to them.
Another thing about music, how you play it back makes a difference as well. One loud source in the corner isn’t nearly as good as a lot of small sources in different places. Think about a supermarket, for example. They don’t just have two huge speakers at the front blaring music and announcements. Instead, they have a lot of small speakers all over the ceiling. It creates an even background sound.
This is becoming easier to do - look at all the companies that have light bulbs with integrated speakers in them on Amazon, for example.
I’ve mentioned MegaSeg twice in this article and it’s a really great tool for music programming. It allows you to play either from specific lists, specific genres, or even specific songs based on time of day or other criteria. It’s infinitely flexible and powerful but relatively easy to use. I have been using it for years and really like it as a music programming tool. You can find a used Mac Mini for a few hundred bucks and tie it into a sound system and create an incredible emotional atmosphere for your guests.
One very important thing - if you’re playing music for the public you’ll want to contact ASCAP and get a license to do so - or they may contact you. It’s better to be proactive about this. Also, check the licensing on any songs you play - some are not licensed for public performance. In fact, songs purchased on the iTunes or Amazon stores are not licensed for public performance. Being better isn’t always the easiest path to take.
Written by Anthony B. Barthel