Marketers Question Music's ROI

Heartbeats International Survey Shows Brands Love Music but Don't Invest in It

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If you've already heard enough about Bacardi and Groove Armada -- whose partnership ends April 1, btw, so keep an eye out -- then just catch the first few minutes of this video (below) from a presentation in Stockholm by Swedish agency Heartbeats International. It's a good intro for the report they recently put out on brands' perspectives on using music, which yields a curveball or two.

Unsurprising news from the report: Just about everyone understands that music is useful; 97% of marketers polled say it can strengthen their brands. More surprising: Brands can neither articulate their sonic identities nor are they willing to spend enough of their budgets to develop the ones they could have. And while 76% of marketers said they're using music in their advertising, just three out of 10 are spending more than 5% of their budgets on it.

Why? 38% said it's hard to measure the ROI for using music, and, ironically, an equal number said they had actually figured out the "sound" of their brands. The report concludes, "More often than not, music is seen and used as a supplemental media to enhance the visual aspect of communication or branding (such as in TV advertising). It is likely that this is the main reason why we are not seeing many brands making significant investments in music."

The report faults subjective music decisions -- music supervisors, they're calling you out! -- that are based more on personal taste than a holistic brand message. We're mostly talking about TV ads here, as that's the most common platform to use music, and, if there's fault in the way their music is integrated, it may be more a question of process rather than the supposed egos of the men and women who know their music. Bringing in a supervisor toward the end, after the strategy is set and the creative is mostly locked down, is a likely source of trouble for brands who'd like stronger musical identities.

Sonic branding folks like those at Sonic ID, Noel Franus and Human League's Martyn Ware, have been beating this drum for a while now, but the best ROI on music is clearly going to come when it's part of a homogeneous whole. This doesn't mean making your campaign about music, just making sure that it fits into the big picture. You don't have to commission a custom piece of music for every situation, but you should, at a minimum, have some guidelines that last from campaign to campaign.

With some careful planning and upfront investments like sound logotypes and or in-store sounds, all the elements can fall together and build in value over time. The next time you pick a song for an ad or a website or a branded piece of music, it'll be worth a hell of a lot more money than you put in, because it'll be fortifying what you've already got. A new garage in an empty lot isn't worth nearly as much as one tacked onto a house that's already standing.