This article explores the untapped potential of music, inspired by the Psychedelic Blues era of the late 1960’s, as a lens for the evolution of market research. Through real-world examples and empirical research, we demonstrate the ROI of 'sound marketing.' We advocate for a 'Data in Technicolor Renaissance' where market research harmonizes data science with human emotion to empower brands to do better for people and the planet.
Musical trends have long served as a window into society, reflecting and driving broader cultural shifts. From social critique to expressions of nonconformity, music has been a platform for exploring contrarian themes.
In today’s era of data overload and syndicated sampling, is market research missing the human element—the power of emotion that music so effortlessly captures? While advancements in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the way we understand consumer behavior, what if music, which has been around since the dawn of humanity, holds insights for our industry’s evolution? Let’s dive into the archives to explore how the rise of Psychedelic Blues—the genre that took the electric guitar from a musical instrument to a symbol of rebellion—echoes the forces shaping market research today.
The late 1960s were a seismic period in history, a time when music became the voice of a generation calling for change. Amid the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, and widespread disillusionment, Psychedelic Blues was born. This was not just a music genre but a cultural movement that encouraged self-expression, social equity, and the exploration of consciousness. Icons like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young became logos of the counterculture in the sonic battleground. They broadcasted messages of peace and being true to yourself, echoing the social and political changes that rocked the landscape.
Psychedelic Blues ushered the emerging world of rock music into mainstream popularity, breaking ground in a time when music wasn't just heard, but felt. It influenced fashion, politics, and the way people thought about the world around them. Today, as we zoom into a post-COVID digital accelerator, could the spirit of Psychedelic Blues be the 'golden wings' for market research to become a beacon for responsible capitalism? As people increasingly favor brands that align with their values and beliefs for social and environmental impact, market research is not only a smart investment for informed decision-making, but a moral compass for brands who have something to stand for.
Companies today aren't just competing with each other but against a backdrop of public disenchantment over irresponsible consumption and broken capitalism. Brands that ‘walk the walk’ and give back to the greater good are experiencing an activist advantage, with tangible results for the bottom line. This shift coincides with a progressive wave in marketing towards using music and sound to express brand identity and bring broader societal themes and issues into the conversation.
Smart Music Marketing: Sound Strategy or Total 💩?
Companies are finding ROI in 'loving the vibe', harnessing music and sound for storytelling and customer engagement. Global powerhouses like Coca-Cola, Heineken, Chevrolet, Colgate-Palmolive, Mastercard, and TikTok are ahead of the curve, using sonic logos, brand anthems, and curated vocal talent as part of the marketing mix. Data backs up the market appetite for sonic branding: globally, digital audio spend increased by nearly 60% in 2021 and saw a 20% rise in 2022. This ‘smart music marketing’ isn’t just a fun embellishment but a strategic asset backed by empirical research and neuroscientific insights. Sound taps into the power of nostalgia1, memories, and positive emotions, making it effective at uniting people across diverse backgrounds. On a neurobiological level, music activates parts of the brain associated with social cognition and empathy, enabling brands to speak to customers in a language that resonates universally.
Music, with its ability to transcend cultural and geographic boundaries, is a conduit for brands to say who they are, authentically, and support artists and causes that align with core values. This idea of musical experiences as a social glue between consumers and brands has deep roots in our cultural history. Look at how artists like Led Zeppelin became a timeless phenomenon. From the hippie counterculture of the 1960s to the punk and metal scenes of the 1970s and beyond, their music transcended generational and geographic divides, blending rock, blues, and folk to adapt with the times and resonate with people from all walks of life.
Today, companies are tapping into the music scene and investing in real artists to nail the power chord of cultural relevance, emotional resonance, and digital readiness. Platforms like TikTok, Spotify, YouTube, and Discord are making it easier than ever for artists to monetize their creativity and grow a fanbase. Keeping an eye on what gains traction on these platforms offers an early look at what's on people's minds, potentially forecasting changes in consumer behavior.
As the music scene becomes increasingly artist-centric, with apps facilitating more social and integrated entertainment experiences, brands can take a lesson from the ‘concert economy’ of fan engagement. Fueled by post-pandemic revenge spending, the ‘concert economy’ has emerged as a worldview where experiences and vibes hold significant economic opportunity. Consider Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour," a powerhouse projected to generate $4.6 billion for local economies. This isn't just a testament to Swift's popularity but an indication of the ROI in the strategic use of music to strengthen circle of influence. We go to concerts not just to hear Beyoncé or T. Swift, but to share joy and be part of something bigger.
As the sonic branding boom intersects with the rise of TikTok for music discovery and modern research on music and the brain, audio is becoming a must-have for standing out in the attention economy. In today’s era of omnichannel advertising, we hypothesize that music and sound will join visual logos and mission statements as pillars of brand identity. Sound enriches the emotional texture of a brand and influences positive consumer behavior and belief, with quantifiable impact on the bottom line.
Just as musicians serve as performers and commentators, brands too should engage in a two-way dialogue with their audiences. Utilizing market research as the conduit for this interaction enables co-creation of better ideas, and more inclusive narratives—especially crucial for gaining traction in niche and multicultural markets.
At Echo MR, we're reimagining research to make the customer a living part of your brand’s story. We aim to take stakeholders on a journey, one that fires up the brightest minds in marketing and builds conviction for innovation. Answers alone aren’t enough anymore; data needs to be sparks for creativity, seeds for partnerships, and scaffolding for humanizing narratives that empower brands to be a force for good. As brand planning increasingly intertwines with audio-visual storytelling, we strive to put a face to the data, turning lived experiences into marketing gold.
Just as Psychedelic Blues revolutionized rock music with an unlikely fusion of genres, we envision a future where market research harmonizes the rigor of data science with seeing human patterns in full color. This ‘Data in Technicolor Renaissance’ could be the social glue we’ve all been searching for. Like the sounds of the '60s that united a generation, what if ‘sound marketing’ – anchored in market research and multimedia craftsmanship – holds the key to crescendo business to extraordinary?
1 Williams, J. P. (2012). Music, nostalgia, and intergenerational communication. Journal of Family Communication, 12(4), 280-298.
2 Grewal, D., Roggeveen, A. L., & Nordfält, J. (2021). Sonic branding in an omni-channel world. Journal of Marketing, 85(3), 41-58.
3 Hagtvedt, H., & Brasel, S. A. (2016). Music and advertising: The influence of music fit and music appropriateness on consumer responses. Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 4552-4560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.04.164
4 Alpert, F., & Alpert, M. I. (2018). The effect of congruent music on consumers’ responses to advertising. Journal of Marketing, 82(1), 116-132. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242918788059