The Power of Everyday Sounds
By Tom Ryan
According to consultant and neurology expert
Martin Lindstrom, 83 percent of all advertising principally engages only
one sense: sight. Hearing, the author of the best seller, Buyology, argues,
can be equally as powerful, though advertisers rarely capitalize on it.
Writing in Fast Company, Mr. Lindstrom
notes that when the sound was removed from slot machines in Las Vegas,
revenue fell by 24 percent. Experiments in restaurants show that when slow
music plays – effectively slowing the rhythm of a heartbeat – people eat
slower and they eat more.
On the advertising side, brands have used
jingles and background music in commercials, and music soundtracks are
tailored to many stores. But Mr. Lindstrom says brands in general
are not capitalizing on consumers’ deep connections with everyday sounds.
Using the latest neuroscience-based research
methods, Buyology Inc. and Elias Arts, a sound identity company, measured
the galvanic, pupil, and brainwave responses of 50 volunteers to sounds.
They found a steak sizzling, a baby laughing, a hum of a vibrating cell
phone, and the sound of an ATM machine dispensing cash among the sounds
that most resonate strongly with consumers. (Among branded sounds, Intel,
MTV, McDonald’s and Home Depot displayed the strongest reactions)
Mr. Lindstrom said these sounds already carry
meaning to the consumer, triggering instant emotions such as hunger or
thirst or joy immediately after being heard.
On the one hand, Mr. Lindstrom admits to Time magazine
to being puzzled by TV ads that give viewers close-ups of shots of meat
on a grill accompanied by generic jangly guitar music rather than the powerful
connection shown to the sound of sizzling meat. But he also sees an opportunity
The Time article noted that the
0101 department store in Japan, for example, features a series of soundscapes
incorporating sound effects such as children at play, birdsongs and lapping
water in the sportswear, fragrance and formal-wear sections. Mr. Lindstrom
is working with some European supermarkets on a similar strategy. For instance,
the sound of percolating coffee or fizzling soda might be heard in the beverage
department or a baby cooing might accompany the baby-food aisle.
"As marketers become more aware of the power
of sound, it will be used to increase brand recognition in increasingly
sophisticated ways," wrote Mr. Lindstrom in Fast Company. "It’s
just a matter of time before our brains hear sizzling steaks, newly lit
cigarettes and sparkling sodas, and immediately register them as Outback,
Marlboro and Dr. Pepper."
How would you rate the opportunities as well as the limitations in
using everyday sounds as a marketing tool? Can retailers capitalize on the
consumer’s connection to such sounds in their retail environments?
- Neural Advertising:
The Sounds We Can’t Resist – Time
- The 10 Most Addictive
Sounds in the World – Fast Company