As a Music Designer specializing in world music, I rely heavily upon my training in ethnomusicology, the study of the relationship between music and culture. I have long been fascinated with music’s prevalence in rituals across cultures: why is music so crucial to performances that bridge the gap between ideal and real worlds? Roger Savage, a scholar of musical aesthetics, posits that experiencing music changes how we experience time, creating new resonances on the level of “mood” that go on to influence how we think and act in the world. In other words, when we hear music that moves us (or “moods” us), our understanding expands, causing us to identify with ourselves and others differently.

The lesson for Experience Design? Music is a potent tool for moving people to “buy” into brand values, an important first step toward sustainable brand purchases. I believe that brand identity is done the most justice when approached as a culture, with its own set of goods and products (obviously) but also ideals and behaviors. Attracting a loyal clientele means convincing customers to become members of that culture—to adopt a brand’s identity as part of their own—so that they go beyond purchasing on an “as-needed” basis to take a risk on new offerings. Color, shape, texture, text, scent, and music act together to provide a holistic experience of a brand, engaging all senses. Music’s unique role in sensory branding is to appeal to the feeling that happens before thinking, in effect “sealing the deal” of conviction often before we are even aware of it (as with an “impulse buy,” perhaps?).

I used to frequent a coffee shop (and Mood client) in North Dallas, TX, downing Chai Tea Lattes while working on writing projects. Excellent product quality and friendly staff aside, I adored the warmth conveyed by the interior wood paneling and the arrangement of furniture that perceptually expanded a space that was actually quite small. But it was from listening to Janice Williams’ music design—evoking a breezy summer day on a back porch with its use of Adult Contemporary songs driven by acoustic instruments—that the orientation towards community that defines the location became “real” to me to its not only fullest but deepest extent. Hearing the musical expression of a brand, specifically, incorporates the powerful component of care into its influence upon the consumer decision-making process.

– Submitted by Amy Frishkey, Music Design