Time was when music and art were bit players in business, used to create a pleasant ambience for shoppers or to brighten up dull offices. Today, backed by findings from numerous research studies, organisations are much more strategic in their use of art and music to influence consumer behaviour, staff performance, and ultimately the bottom line.
Creativity can have a powerful effect on the human brain. Viewing art can stir strong emotions and deep thoughts, stimulating the brain in profound and often long term ways, while music affects the brain emotionally simply because specific brain circuits are wired to respond to it.
This has allowed companies to set the stage for the ideal customer experience, with successful hotels, retailers and restaurants investing in art displays and playlist selections that will impact relevant emotions and behaviours. For example, research from the University of Strathclyde suggested that when businesses use music with slower tempos, it encourages consumers to slow down and potentially purchase more. Faster tempos, on the other hand, may increase revenues in businesses that need a quick turnover of customers, for example, fast-food restaurants.
A global study carried out by experiential design and marketing firm Mood Media found that 72 per cent of first-time customers would return to stores playing music they enjoy, compared with just half of customers when the point of sale is silent. With this in mind, organisations need to consider a wealth of factors when choosing what music to play.
“Music can contribute to creating a deep emotional connection between your clientele and your brand through your environment,” says international marketing director Valentina Candeloro. “For example, if you’re a restaurant catering to university students, a thumping beat can be the right choice, but if your core audience is an older clientele, playing music too loudly may drive them away.”
Musical preferences can also vary with different times of day. While the early-morning hustle may be conducive to higher tempos, evening patrons may prefer lower levels of sound and beat that allow for easy conversation. Other elements, such as the tone and message of the background music, familiarity and freshness of the music are also important considerations.
Back in 2003 the findings of a joint survey of 800 employees by the Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors in the US found that art could help businesses tackle some key workplace challenges, such as reducing stress, which 78 per cent of employees agreed with and boosting creativity, as cited by 64 per cent.
Art has a positive impact on employee engagement and productivity. A study by Dr Craig Knight from organisational psychology consultancy Identity Realisation found that a workplace with art and plants was more productive than one without, concluding that a more aesthetically well thought out workspace is more beneficial to both employees and their employers.
Art makes a statement about a company’s values, it doesn’t require a huge financial outlay; there are talented new artists keen to get their work displayed for a reasonable price, and it can definitely impact the all-important bottom line.
One sector that has used art to influence the customer to great effect is hospitality, as Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality, explains. He says: “The Melia White House Hotel in London provides a free exhibition space for independent artists. Named ARTROOMS, the interactive showcase provides thought-provoking art and allows visitors to scout art news and trends from all over the world. The most obvious advantage of this is that it brings in visitors who may use their other services, whether a drink, dinner or overnight stay.”
The sector, which is focused on engaging with local communities, is also embracing music in different ways. The Mandrake Hotel in London promotes curated sensory experiences through sound massage, to promote deep relaxation and peace, while The Ned Hotel, also in London, promotes emerging artists on Monday nights with a place to perform. In turn it brings in a younger audience and supports a usually quite night in the city.
“Businesses are now looking much more closely at what their local community and guests actually enjoy listening and dancing too,” says Sheppardson. “If it keeps them at the bar for longer, they may drink more and therefore it increases spend.”
According to the ‘Customers 2020’ study by US-based customer intelligence consultancy Walker a firm in the US, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. And as people are increasingly drawn to experiences, businesses will need to get more creative and find ways of harnessing the power of art and music to retain engaged and productive employees and attract new audiences who will spend.