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We all know that music inspires feelings in its listeners. Trust is a feeling of confidence and belief in a person or thing, such as a product or brand.

What kind of music best serves as a signal of trust to consumers, both in B2C and B2B marketing? The answer depends, as with all questions in business, on the buyer.

The Power of Music to Instill Trust

Music increases our oxytocin levels. While this hormone is most associated with love, it also makes it easier for us to trust. That means if you are a company looking for new ways to build trust in your brand, your choice of music is important. 

While some studies have drawn a strong link between music and trust, others have been less successful, leading researchers to conclude that specific features of the music, as well as the tastes of the audience, must be taken into account to achieve the desired trust-building effect.

Here are 10 tips for selecting the best music to instill trust in your buyers:

1. Start with your brand identity.

Your brand’s essence is the emotional benefit your company or product delivers. For ADT, it would be peace of mind, for example, while for Red Bull, it would be energy. The music you use should reflect your brand’s essence, because when you present your brand consistently, consumers are more likely to trust you.

 Multiple studies confirm that consumers’ musical genre preferences can be sorted into four qualitative categories: reflective & complex (classical, jazz, folk, blues), intense & rebellious (rock, alternative, heavy metal), upbeat & conventional (country, pop, soundtracks, religious), and energetic & rhythmic (rap, soul, electronica). This can be a starting point for mapping music to your marketing efforts.

2. Align your genre choice with buyer demographics. 

Let’s say your brand is an upstart innovator that is disrupting its industry. You might want to choose music that is “rebellious” to highlight this trait. 

But how do you choose between rock, alternative, and heavy metal? That’s where demographic information can be helpful. Are your brand’s buyers typically aged 45-54? In that case, you might wish to go with classic rock, which is more popular than alternative or metal with that age group. 

3. Take into account buyer interests and values. 

Just as you should take your target customers’ demographics into account, you should also consider their values and interests. If you’re marketing alternative-lifestyle products, for example, the Billboard Hot 100 is not likely to be the best soundtrack for your message.

Let’s take the alignment with buyer values a step further. Say your business sells sustainable or locally sourced products. Many indie artists are committed to the cause of sustainability and attract audiences who are as well. You might consider teaming with one of these artists to promote your product through a music-driven campaign. 

4. Pick a genre and stick with it. 

Audiences tend to identify strongly with their favorite musical genres, so when you change your brand’s music, your buyers might think of you differently.

A fascinating Australian study gave participants a set of song lyrics and asked them what emotions the lyrics elicited. The twist is that the song’s genre was described differently to different participants. Some were told the lyrics were from an opera, while others were told they were from a hip hop song, heavy metal song or samba. The researchers found that participants had varying emotional reactions to the lyrics simply based on this information.

When participants thought the lyrics were part of a samba, they evoked happiness. When they thought they were from a hip hop or metal song, they elicited anger. The lesson for marketers is that even a consistent message can be perceived as inconsistent if the musical accompaniment changes.


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5. Choose music that inspires positive emotions. 

Once you’ve landed on a musical style that aligns with your brand’s essence and your customers’ preferences, you can now focus on the individual song, soundtrack or arrangement.

While the specific emotions you wish to inspire may vary from project to project, your best bet for instilling trust is to choose music that evokes positive emotions, because music that creates joy also builds trust. How Music Really Works suggests that a high pitch and bright tone color are two  components of music that generates happiness.

6. Match tempo to desired actions.  

To gain buyer trust, you must not only align music with your brand, but also with your desired customer experience.

If you have a fast casual restaurant, for example, music with a fast tempo is the best match for the experience and leads to faster table turnover so patrons don’t have to wait as long to be seated. Chill music, by contrast, works better for supermarkets, because it encourages visitors to relax and explore the entire store. More about how to better layer audio levels in your work here.

7. Let music drive the action.  

Marketing works best when all the elements of your branding are tightly coordinated. While music is a valuable tool on its own, it is even more impactful when it helps to tell your company or product’s story. Research has shown that music in television commercials, for example, becomes more memorable when it drives the ad’s narrative — through tempo, lyrics or other means. 

8. Choose a recognizable song to increase authority. 

Using a hit song in your marketing can carry a hefty price tag, but it can be worth it because of the value it delivers.

One of the key benefits of choosing recognizable music is authority; your buyers will trust you more simply by virtue of your association with a popular song by a famous artist. It is comparable to an influencer endorsement in the good will it generates.

(If you can't swing the licensing cost for a hit song, you can always get radio-quality music from a music licensing company like Soundstripe.)

9. Evoke and inspire memories. 

Studies have consistently shown that music has a powerful link with our memory; it’s why singing helps us learn a foreign language faster, for example.

One reason why choosing a recognizable song has real value in marketing is that it can take us back in time. It’s why you crank up the volume when you come across a hit song from when you were a teenager; for a moment, you feel like that teen again. Brands can capture and associate themselves with these feelings, building a bond of affection and trust with buyers.

10. Don't forget other trust signals.  

No single component of a marketing campaign, including music, can do all the work necessary to create and sustain buyer trust. However you end up incorporating music in your marketing, it’s important to marshal all the elements of a trust-centered growth strategy to succeed. It’s worth it, though — because without trust in business, nothing else matters. 

The moment you add music to your organization’s marketing mix, it becomes part of your brand. Make sure your musical choices inspire customer trust.

About the Author

Scott Baradell is CEO of Idea Grove, a unified PR and marketing agency based in Dallas. For more than 15 years, Scott has been a thought leader on the future of public relations. In 2020, Scott began writing “Trust Signals: The New PR,” outlining a new framework for the practice of public relations, to be published by LionCrest in 2021. Scott has an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the PRSA and speaks on PR and marketing topics at industry events nationwide.

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