Music as a Brand Asset

Achille Forler, founder

How can music design, a relatively young discipline, help brand differentiation?

A brand is made of several parts, or assets, and music is one of them. Neglecting your music asset is like neglecting an interior design asset, or an F&B asset. Brands that one cannot identify with eyes closed are mute brands. But when a brand fires on all cylinders, across all its properties, then the stage is set for the highest experience within the price-band in which the brand operates. Within a same price-band, people will instinctively go for the better experience. Experience is what differentiates brands.

Why is music becoming an important asset for brands?

A lot of evidence has been collected in the last 60 years to show that background music impacts customers’ behaviour. But research in the last 15 years has revolutionised our understanding of how music works: we have a musical brain that is different from, and pre-dating, our verbal brain. Beethoven sensed it when he said that: “Music enters our brain through an entirely different door”. Research has shown that music significantly amplifies our emotions, the way a soundtrack amplifies the scenes of a movie. More brain areas are assigned to the processing of music than language: man is truly a musical species.

The traditional offer of genre-based background music has no goal other than to discreetly mask unpleasant sounds – voices, ambient noise – and, at its best, create a kind of emotional ‘feel good’ among guests and staff. You can hear this predictable, bland music everywhere, in a grocery store or in a hotel lobby. This inappropriate approach is still, sadly, the ‘default option’ for most of the hospitality industry.

When music is curated in tune with the other assets of your brand, it becomes the voice of your brand and conveys emotionally your corporate identity. That cannot be achieved with genre-based, one-size-fits-all music playlists.

How then should music branding be approached?

Music can be the best ‘value for money’ overhead in a budget. That said: First, the client should know exactly what the brand stands for. This itself is a challenge for many companies. Companies that don’t do well are invariably companies that have lost their narrative, or maybe never had one in the first place.

When we started out, we were lucky to have as clients some exceptional General Managers in charge of renovation, or re-opening, of sublime heritage properties. When you work for timeless destinations such as these, the key is to crack each property’s code while keeping a sonic commonality, because they belong to the same Group and the music must reflect that.

When you work with a brand that has little to differentiate itself from its competitors – and there are many -, music can be a key differentiator. Here, the key is to create an original sonic foundation that allows continual evolution because in these businesses one year is a long time; you must constantly refresh your playlists to stay ahead of the curve.

What sparked the creation of Music Curator?

Then one day it struck me: the hospitality industry plays music in more venues with a greater captive audience than any other industry in the world, including the music industry. Not using this potential is like keeping a Ferrari locked up in a garage. The hospitality industry doesn’t see it this way because that is not what they teach in hotel management schools. I saw this as a huge opportunity for brands to implement a music strategy to communicate with their guests and the world.

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