Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How persuasive the 'fit' of music to the consumer and product can be

When you visit a shop, undoubtedly music will be playing. The type of music played tends to differ depending on the location and the audience. If you walk into Topshop you’ll likely get recent hits playing, if you move onto a kids clothes shop you’ll get upbeat songs, and if you finish in a wine shop you’ll probably find yourself perusing the aisles to the soothing sounds of classical FM. Some shops do this just to increase the ‘pleasure’ of the shopping experience, and of course won’t think too deeply about the psychology going on behind what they play. However, some brands have taken psychological research and used it to their advantage to persuade their costumers to stay longer, buy more and spend more. The thing that most of the examples above have in common is the ‘fit’ of the music to the store.

MacInnis and Park (1991) gave the ‘fit’ of music to a shop this definition; ‘consumers’ subjective perceptions of the music’s relevance or appropriateness’ to the persuasion context. In this way musical ‘fit’ is put into the context of fitting in with the consumer, and along these lines a study was performed which showed when easy-listening music and top-forty music were played in a shop they changed certain customer’s perceptions of how long they spent there (Yalch & Spangenberg, 1990). For customers under 25, they reported spending longer in the shop when easy-listening music was played; whereas for customers over 25, they reported being in the shop longer when the top-forty music was played. In this way, music fitting to the consumer can be brought back to my first example, with the kids shops and Topshop and the wine shop. You’re not likely to get teenagers going out to buy a nice bottle of wine, so it would be better to use the music that would appeal to an older consumer, whereas in Topshop it would be better to cater to a younger crowd to give them a more enjoyable experience and to stop them wanting to leave too early on.

Music can fit the product sold as well as the consumer. Areni and Kim (1993) performed a study whereby they played either classical music, or the top-forty in the charts to shoppers in a wine store and examined how their purchasing differed. They found that listening to the classical music didn’t cause shoppers to buy more; interestingly it made them buy more expensive wine instead. Areni and Kim (1993) concluded that the change in buying behaviour was due to the music ‘fitting in’ with the area it was used in. And in this case, for the wine, the music would fit the consumer and the product.

Aspects of music such as tempo and volume have been highly researched for shops and the usefulness of it is undisputed. As I hope I’ve shown, the fit is just as important, and should never be ignored!


Areni, C. S., & Kim, D. (1993). The influence of background music on shopping behavior: classical versus top-forty music in a wine store. Advances in Consumer Research, 20, 336-340.

MacInnis, D. J., & Park, C. W. (1991). The differential role of characteristics of music on high-and-low-involvement consumers' processing of ads. Journal of Consumer Research, 18(2), 161-173.

Yalch, R., & Spangenberg, E. (1990). Effects of store music on shopping behavior. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 7(2), 55-63.

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