Effects of Music in Advertising

Pleasant music can be used as a background feature in commercials. Both the background features and product information must be included in a commercial for it to be appealing. Apart from music, there are other background features such as humor and attractive colors which play a major role in affecting product preferences. There have been quite a number of experiments conducted by marketing researchers to find out the role that product information and background features play in affecting product preference (1). Information processing framework is used to interpret the effect of product information in commercials whereas a classical conditioning framework is used to explain the effect of background features in commercials. According to the classical conditioning framework, a commercial containing a positive stimuli such as music and humor can make consumers develop a positive attitude towards the advertised product. Pleasant music and attractive colors are examples of unconditioned stimuli that encourage positive reaction (1). It has been proved experimentally that attitude change among consumers is not necessarily affected by demand characteristics.

It is a common observation that many consumers are always not willing to accept the fact that their response is affected by unconditioned stimuli. Background features are used to emphasize the product information in a commercial. Consumers are able to recall a lot of product information from a commercial with background features compared to one which has no background features (1). Although unconditioned stimuli make consumers to develop a positive attitude towards a particular product, some argue that preference is simply by exposure. Classical conditioning makes background features as the major selling point of a commercial.

An experiment published by Gerald Gorn demonstrates how consumer preferences are influenced by background features in commercial advertisement. Consumers are classical conditioned by some stimuli to develop a positive attitude towards a particular product (2). Gorn used both pleasant and unpleasant music to advertise a pen and the results were positive for the commercial with pleasant music. The study conducted by Gorn has made positive contributions in the field of consumer behavior but has also brought a lot of controversy. Some researchers have replicated Gorn’s experiment using humor as a background feature but the ultimate effect of classical conditioning on consumer preference has not been established (2). Three experiments have been conducted to establish the role of demand artifacts in Gorn’s experiments. In the first experiment, music appeal was manipulated to find out how it would affect the choice of a pen with a particular color. In this experiment, the researchers found out that the pen choice was not affected by music appeal (2).

The results from the first experiment suggest that the selection procedure used by Gorn only produced a demand artifact. The second experiment was an attempt to manipulate demand characteristics using Gorn’s choice procedure. Undergraduate classes were used in the second experiment. The only change introduced in this experiment was the use of pens with different colors to signify a minor change. The subjects were asked to imagine a particular type of music that was only described to them. From this experiment, Gorn’s results were actually replicated by imagination alone (2). The suggestion from this experiment is that Gorn’s results were not a reaction to experimental stimuli but to procedure. The use of a more obtrusive procedure produced positive results compared to the use of actual music manipulation in the first experiment. From the two experiments, it is clear that Gorn’s finding were to some extend influenced by demand artifacts (2).

The third experiment was to compare Gorn’s use of classical music as an unconditioned stimulus with popular music as the new unconditioned stimulus in the experiment. In order to find out which unconditional stimulus was stronger than the other, it was necessary to use different sets of music. The procedural conditions used in this experiment were completely different from Gorn’s (2). The results from this experiment still demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between pen choice and music appeal. The use of different types of appealing music did not bring any significant difference in results. The results from three experiments suggested that the conditioning power of music in Gorn’s experiments was just unique in a way.

Three experiments have also disputed the notion that a single exposure to music can condition product preferences (2). The classical conditioning phenomenon should be examined further by consumer researchers so that its clear boundaries can be established. The ability of music to trigger moods and facilitate nonverbal communication has made it one of the major elements of marketing consumer goods. Music is currently being used in shopping areas as well as advertisements. Music is a major promotional tool that marketers are yet to discover. Music plays a major role in affecting the behavior of consumers as well as influencing their moods. Since time in memorial, music has proved to be a powerful stimulus (3). This has been proved by researchers who have been studying the ability of music to affect moods. Music activates the brain and in the process affecting person’s emotional reactions. It has been very difficult to develop the taxonomy of music elements due to its complex nature. Some of the notable musical elements include time, pitch and texture. Music is based on these three fundamental structural elements. Musical researchers consider fast music as being more pleasant compared to music with a slow tempo. There is a positive relationship between the music tempo and the effect it has on listeners (3).

From research findings, music with a low pitch is associated with sadness whereas high pitched music is associated with happiness. Texture related findings suggest that brass instruments represent victory while string instruments have no definite expressions. Loud music expresses happiness while soft music expresses seriousness. The interpretation of video stimuli is in most cases affected by the musical mood within the video. How consumers respond to television commercial depend on the type of music used in the commercial advertisement. The positive dimension of an advertisement is intensified when pleasant music is used as a background feature (3). The source of a commercial message is evaluated according to background music used in the commercial. Consumer preference should be compatible with the background music for positive evaluation of the commercial message by the audience.

Purchase intentions are affected in most cases by music. Research findings suggest that a higher arousal by background features in a commercial tends to increase the preference function (3). Several analyses show that music is essential in helping consumers comprehend and recall information about new products compared to products that are already established in the market. After analyzing radio commercials, marketing researchers were able to establish that high tempo music brought positive results compared to moderate or slow tempi music (3).

Music has a non-random effect on human beings and hat is why it is widely used in marketing. It is therefore very important to study more about the role of music in marketing for marketers to reap maximum benefits (4). Marketing researchers should pay much attention to the effect of various musical elements on consumer preferences because there is still lot information that is yet to be discovered. Marketing managers find it difficult to decide whether to use music in their commercials or not. The use of music in commercials is very effective when the customers have a low cognitive connection with the advertisement. Well-known musical hits should be used in advertisements so as to attract the attention of the audience as fast as possible (4). The other option is to develop music that is relevant to a particular occasion. Marketers should be very careful when selecting a song to feature in a commercial because of significant role that music plays in determining whether a particular product is accepted or rejected.

Advertising repetition is important in increasing the level of consumer confidence as well as influencing their attitude towards a particular product. Non-evaluative dimensions such as confidence and attitude require high motivational involvement in order to affect consumer behavior (4). An experiment involving manipulation of non-evaluative elements was conducted to determine the effect of manipulating repetitions. Brand attitude formation is affected by different factors such as the visual and audio portions of a commercial. Visual and auditory persuasion cues play a major role in communicating the main theme in a commercial (4).


Gorn GJ. The effects of music in advertising on choice behavior: a classical conditioning approach. The Journal of Marketing. 1982; 46 (1): 94-101.

Kellaris JJ, Cox AD. The effects of background music in advertising: a reassessment. Journal of Consumer Research. 1989; 16 (1): 113-18.

Park CW, Young SM. Consumer response to television commercials: the impact of involvement and background music on brand attitude formation. Journal of Marketing Research. 1986; 23 (1): 11-24.

Berger IE, Mitchell AA. The effect of advertising on attitude accessibility, attitude confidence, and the attitude behavior relationship. Journal of Consumer Research. 1989; 16 (3): 269-279.