Top tips for selecting music that reflects your brand

In 2015, Nielsen conducted a study looking at TV advertisements that found ads with music performed better amongst audiences in terms of conveying creativity, emotions, empathy and information. The study found “generic” background music used by brands improved the power of the information and the key messages that were shared.

If it is so effective in maximising the impact of information, then brands should be making the most of this added dimension by using music in other areas of its wider marketing or creative strategy. This could include storyboards, company presentations, events and marketing materials. Being relatively simple to use and cost effective, there is no excuse not to use the added dimension that music brings to drive your brands’ narrative and increase employee or customer engagement.

Music has the ability to ignite the senses, render adverts or presentations “less of an unwanted intrusion,” smooth presentation transitions and “mediate between disjointed images”, according to David Huron in Music in Advertising. More generally, music is enjoyable and if you are entertaining your audience, then they are more likely to be receptive to your marketing. Is using music really better than no music, in all scenarios? Not necessarily, and it is easy to imagine overpowering sounds with loud and complicated rhythms and beats which could detract from your overall message. Of course there is a risk—but done smartly, music is one way of almost guaranteeing increased audience attentiveness in your marketing and media materials.

Here are three tips to leverage music for delivering your brand message.

Why license music?

If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that you can’t just use any music you want and it’s probably not worth getting yourself and your company in trouble for featuring a twinkly piano line from Amelie in a transition slide about Q3 growth. Even if you know exactly what track is going to fit—you need to get the correct licenses for the music track, especially when it is being used to promote your own brand or product.

Whilst licensing rights for popular songs exist, they don’t come cheap and are laden with royalties. A far easier way of getting hold of high quality music is by sourcing them from a repertoire especially designed for the easy purchasing of the tracks and their licensing rights. One such site is Shutterstock Music that hosts thousands of royalty-free tracks. These are classified by genre and mood and are all priced simply and coherently, ready for use.

Choosing the right tone

Imagine that you are helping the HR department hire a cohort of graduates. You are trying to both impress and inspire. You want something that will give them a sense of the journey they are embarking on, something upbeat enough to get them excited, but also something that evolves and lets them picture their own personal development. Perhaps this could be achieved via a steady beat, easy chord progression and the keen, fluent, flamenco-light oscillation of guitar strings. It doesn’t matter exactly—and there is no magic formula, but if it feels right and adds to your messaging then it will likely serve to drive audience impact. However, try to avoid just adding music on top of other content for the sake of making it feel whole. Ensure each element has a pre-determined purpose.

Every mood has an archetypal sound that goes with it, this is especially true when visiting casino sites. Dissonant chords and rumbling bass tones will spell out the unease that may only be appropriate when presenting an industry-wide cataclysm or the work of rivals. Gospel-style choirs will evoke hope, power and glory. Be careful of being overly stereotypical in your associations of sounds and moods, as this can dismay your audience and reduce your message to being nothing more than cliché.

Generally, soft, predictable melodies give balance and weight to complicated or new ideas. An upcoming SME might use a simple background track with soothing chords and a chirpy melody—nothing too innovative but it positions the brand in a certain context and triggers associations in the listener’s mind. A disruptive product that is looking to shake-up an existing space might want to try something different, something unexpected—a throbbing bass-line or harsh guitars. Keep the messaging as obvious as possible, with music playing a central part of that message. The choice of music in a piece of marketing should never have to be explained. If it works, it’s fairly obvious why.

Listen to your brand

Having a coherent and stable soundscape that accompanies your marketing output can give a whole new dimension to your brand’s recognition. Similar sounding tracks, that all convey the same mood, can create that balance between stability and evolution that all brands desire.

When you find a piece of music that evokes the message you are trying to convey, stick with it. It could be the simple airy notes of a chorus-drenched electric keyboard or the comforting warmth of a mellow choir. Whatever it might be, find the right tone that conveys your brand, something that is loud enough to capture your audience’s attention and subtle enough not to detract from the key messaging. Whichever sounds exactly like what you want people to think of when they think of your brand—that’s the sound for you.

When selecting music, think critically about every sound, keep it subtle and meaningful, that way you won’t do yourself or your brand a disservice.

By François Arbour, VP Product, Video and Music at Shutterstock