How advertisers can use music to make consumers shop sustainably

Posted in: Advertising, Branding, Climate, Consumers, Environment, Sustainability

Using catchy music to advertise your product is a well-established strategy. But how can marketers ensure that the resulting brand recognition and attachment actually translates into sales, particularly when advertising sustainable products? Here Haiming Hang explains his latest research findings, which show that up-tempo, ‘major mode’ music can help drive sales of green products and services. 

Consumers are increasingly seeking out ethical and sustainable products and services in the marketplace. However, research on ethical consumption has consistently found that what consumers say (or express via attitudes) differs from what they actually do - the so-called “attitude-behaviour gap”. Here, we argue that marketers can utilise a creative but underutilised strategy - advertising music - to decrease the “attitude-behaviour gap and encourage sustainable consumption.

The “Attitude-Behaviour Gap”

Sustainable consumption research has found that consumers’ behaviour does not always correspond to what they say. For example, while about 30% of consumers indicated they cared about brand ethicality, only 3% translated their words into action. The same pattern is also evident in green consumption. Approximately 30% of consumers expressed concern about environmental issues, but only 5% purchased green products. The “attitude-behaviour gap” poses a marketing challenge because any exaggeration of consumers’ ethical concerns can distort market equilibrium, leading to oversupply. Our research suggests that one way to bridge the gap is to use advertising music creatively.

The Power of Music

Advertising music is a powerful creative strategy. It grabs consumers’ attention and influences their emotions. It drives brand favourability and intention to purchase. Recognising its importance, marketers have begun to heavily invest in advertising music, spending an average of $10–20m annually per brand on music-related rights and licenses.

The “attitude-behaviour gap” is influenced by two characteristics of music: subjective characteristics (e.g., music liking) and objective characteristics (e.g., music mode and tempo). Our research suggests that consumers’ music liking determines their attitudes towards green products, which, in turn, affects their purchase intentions – in other words,  their subjective enjoyment of the music makes them view the product more positively, which makes them want to buy it. More importantly however, is our finding that objective characteristics - music mode and music tempo - can be used to decrease the “attitude-behaviour gap”, meaning that they can translate an initial intention into an actual purchase.

A music mode is a type of scale with distinct melodic characteristics. It can usually be classified as major or minor, that can produce strong but very different feelings and emotional responses among consumers. While major mode music is often associated with positive emotions such as happiness and joy, minor mode music is often associated with negative emotions such as sadness and anger. According to our research, major (but not minor) mode music is effective in reducing the “attitude-behaviour gap” by 40% to 50%. Music tempo is the speed at which the musical passage progresses. Music is considered slow when the tempo is less than 72 bpm, and fast when the tempo is over 94 bpm. Since fast tempo music tends to generate positive feelings (e.g., happiness), our research suggests the “attitude-behaviour gap” is smallest when major mode music is played at a fast tempo. This result is irrespective of consumers’ musical background and is hold true for any type of green product being advertised.

How to Use Advertising Music to Decrease the “Attitude-Behaviour Gap”?

Our research provides marketers with a deeper understanding of how to incorporate music into advertisements to promote green products and bridge the “attitude-behaviour gap”. In particular, liking the music associated with an advertisement can enhance the customer’s purchase intentions by generating favourable brand attitudes. However, marketers must be aware that simply incorporating a piece of music that consumers enjoy may not be sufficient to enhance their purchase intentions. When incorporating music into advertisements, marketers must recognise the importance of music mode and music tempo. In particular, the use of major mode music in advertising can reduce the “attitude-behaviour gap”, enabling consumers to translate their words into action. Furthermore, our findings also indicate that the benefits of major mode music with a fast tempo are greater than those generated by major mode music with a slow tempo. Marketers seeking to promote green products can make use of major mode music at a fast tempo to ensure that consumers’ favourable attitude to a brand, or their green intentions, actually translate to sales.


Posted in: Advertising, Branding, Climate, Consumers, Environment, Sustainability

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