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This Is Really Why You Crave McDonalds During A Night Out

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Soft music promotes healthy food purchases, whereas loud music promotes unhealthy food purchases.
  • Application:
    Adjust the volume of music in your venture to optimize sales of either unhealthy or healthy foods.
  • Advertisers and researchers have long known of the effect that ambient music has in guiding a customer’s subconscious. New studies suggest that this effect also includes music volume, and that a simple turn of the volume button may significantly affect sales. That probably sounds like music to any managers’ ears!

    So what volume should you adopt to boost your sales?

    Let’s take a look at one of the latest findings on music volume and their implications for your food venture.


    How Volume Affects Our Choices

    What is the optimal music volume to maximize sales? Could music volume guide customer behavior? And how does music volume affect the intentions behind our decisions?

    To measure how ambient music volume may affect customers’ choices, the researchers designed an experiment looking into customer behavior in both a café as well as a supermarket. Either the ambient music in such stores was played softly (50-55db) or loudly (70-75db).

    Initially, the researchers were able to determine that soft music made customers feel more relaxed, whereas loud music made them feel more excited.

    More interestingly, what they found is that people’s dietary choices were affected by the volume of the music. Namely, customers bought significantly more healthy options when soft music was played in the background. The opposite effect was found for loud ambient music; people bought significantly more unhealthy foods.

    Apparently, the feeling of relaxation created by soft music drives consumers to opt for healthier food options, whereas high excitement created by loud ambient music promotes them to engage in unhealthy eating behavior.

    No wonder you long for those fries during a night out! 

    How A Volume Change May Boost Your Sales

    Prior findings could be tailored to the aim of your food venture with different implications depending on your intentions.

    For instance, if you own a salad bar, juice bar or vegan restaurant, you may want to play soft ambient music or low background noise to boost your sales. On the other hand, if you own a fast food restaurant, patisserie or candy store, you may want to play loud music or intensify background noise instead to optimize sales. Make sure to crank up that volume if you’re trying to sell fast food!

    But what to do if you sell both healthy and unhealthy products? For broader food retailers such as supermarkets, you could vary music volume across departments with for instance louder music in the confectionary sections and softer music in the fresh produce sections.

    And how to deal with customers wearing headphones? To increase the chance of customers listening to the music played in store, you could nudge them into turning off their personal music devices. For instance, this could be done by making sure the music genre played in the store is liked by most customers within your target group. Another approach might be to have employees greet customers upon entree so that they are more likely to take out their headphones. Stores with few employee customer interactions, could opt to have interactive auditory information stands that would promote active listening as well.

    Additionally, food retail chains may want to standardize the ambient music volume played in store, so as to avoid the possibility of employees changing it according to personal preference and consequently affecting sales.

    Lastly, if you want to promote healthy food choices, you may want to limit background noise by for instance the use of quieter shopping carts, minimizing intercom announcements or auditory distancing from a noisy kitchen.

    The surprising effect of having no music at all?

    The researchers also looked into the difference between the absence and presence of ambient music in nudging food choice behavior. They found that in certain settings, the absence of music had a similar effect to loud music in promoting unhealthy food choice behavior.

    However, soft music always improved healthy food choice behavior, suggesting that it is the feeling of relaxation that drives consumers’ healthy behavior. In other words, if you want your customers to buy your healthy products, definitely make sure to play soft ambient music in your venture!

    Also read this:

    If you’re interested in how to further optimize the ambient music played in your business ventures, you may want to look into the frequency at which it is played. Read more about this in this article!

    Take home points

    • Adjust volume to nudge customer behavior in choosing for either healthy or unhealthy foods.
    • Soft ambient music (50-55db) increases healthy food sales, whereas loud ambient music (70-75db) increases unhealthy food sales.
  • This Is Really Why You Crave McDonalds During A Night Out
  • Reference:

    Biswas, D., Lund, K., & Szocs, C. (2019). Sounds like a healthy retail atmospheric strategy: Effects of ambient music and background noise on food sales. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 47(1), 37-55.


    Further Reading

    • Why Luxury Brands Should Embrace Being Cheap

      Why Luxury Brands Should Embrace Being Cheap

      Consider the following scenario. You are walking through your city on a Saturday afternoon, looking to buy a new shirt. All of a sudden, a retail store of an expensive high-end brand catches your eye, with several beautiful high-class shirts in the storefront. You’ve never bought anything from this brand, but you really like it’s style and designs.

      Enthusiastically you check how much one shirt costs and are shocked to find that the price tag of one of these shirts almost equals your entire weekly paycheck. Would you be ready to pay this enormous amount of money for a shirt from a brand you’ve never owned anything from?

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