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.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Classical music boosts wine sales!

Mozart Piano Concerto no.23 in A major, performed by Vladimir Horowitz at age 84

Have you ever wondered why Classical music is often played in the background at wine stores? Does music by Mozart, Chopin etc have anything to do with wine selling?

We are all aware of the persuasion messages that come verbally and visually, in advertisements and in real life. However, we often forget that persuasion also comes in auditory form. In wine stores, music is often used as part of a powerful persuasion tool: AtmosphericsAtmospherics is the conscious designing of the environment where purchasing behaviours occurs, in order to create specific emotional effects in the customers to enhance their probability of purchase (Kotler, 1973). Kotler (1993) also suggested that atmospherics is particularly important when products being sold are aimed at a specific social class or life style group, as the atmosphere could be designed to cue buyers to the class qualities that they want to enjoy.

Atmospherics is supported by Areni and Kim's (1993) study, which showed that customers spend more money at a wine store when Classical music was played in the background, than when top-forty pop music was played. In the study, either Classical or Top-Forty music was played in the background at a wine store, depending on the condition. In the Classical music condition, recordings being played include: The Mozart Collection, My Favourite Chopin, Mendelssohn Piano Concerto no.2, and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". In the top-forty condition, recordings of pop music from recent Billboard Magazine's top forty albums were played. The data was then collected through direct observation of the customers. 

Table 1 shows that customers in the Classical music condition spent more money in the wine store, but the number of items handled, purchased, and examined, and the amount of time spent did not show statistically significant difference between the two conditions. Areni and Kim (1993) suggested the Classical music being played might have created an upper class and sophisticated atmosphere in the wine store, and cued that the wine being sold ought to be high quality and expensive. As wine consumption is often associated with sophistication and prestige, the Classical music being played might provide a compatible cue that appeals to customers who are seeking sophistication, and facilitate purchase behaviour of higher-priced wine. 

Whilst it is clear that we are bombarded with visual and verbal persuasive messages, we ought to bear in mind that we are also potentially influenced by what we hear, such as music as in atmospherics, whenever we take on the role as consumers.


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 research20(1), 336-340.

Kotler, P. (1973). Atmospherics as a marketing tool. Journal of retailing49(4), 48-64.

- Conan Wan

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