Early in my career, a mentor taught me that the first step to developing any marketing strategy requires fully defining the brand’s voice. In a series of strategy sessions, we built a brand avatar, giving it a name and a gender (call it Tara), and developed her personality by answering some basic questions. How old is she? Where does she shop? Did she go to college? Does she like to cook? What social apps does she use?

Music and Brand Voice
Music and Brand Voice

Once defined, all marketing programs would be analyzed against the Tara standard. Would she like it? Was this her style? Everything from our social strategy and visual merchandising programs reflected the brand’s desire to BE Tara, and while imperfect, it gave us a unified voice to speak with.

I’ve repeated this exercise many times since, defining and redefining Tara. Each time I’ve found that one question always kicks up the most debate: what kind of music does she listen to?

More than anything else, we have an emotional and even visceral response to music. Everyone has an opinion and preference. In some cases, a strong and nearly zealous conviction. Music can excite and inspire. It is nearly impossible to describe and can only be experienced - reminiscent of the proverbial task of explaining color to a blind man. Whether we follow our favorite band on tour or simply use music to fill the silence on our morning commute, it ultimately tells the story of our lives.

While we experience the power of music individually - and may even give it significant thought when defining our brand avatar - it is often an afterthought in execution. Companies painstakingly analyze every aspect of their business but fail to act on one of the most powerful ways to forge an emotional connection with their customers.

Take this as an example: When a customer enters a retail shop every aspect of their guest journey has been intensely scrutinized by teams of branding experts: visual merchandisers agonize over fixtures and in-store product placement, creative teams deliberate wall color and interior design, product managers test multiple packaging schemes; the list can go on and on. Every square inch of real estate is accounted for as part of an overarching brand voice. So why should the playlist be any different?

Despite understanding the value and power of music, brands still fail to account for the role it plays in a shopper’s experience. A poor choice of music, or no music at all is, quite frankly, a lost opportunity. As retailers move towards a true omnichannel experience (or ‘unified commerce’ depending on who you speak with), it is more important than ever that conversations with customers are consistent across all channels and that brands speak with a clear voice. If your in-store music isn’t actively telling your brand’s story, or in my example Tara’s story, then it’s actively working against it. Music is your brand’s voice. It’s time to start talking to your customers.