Beyond the Brand: Music Lifestyles of Your Favorite Stores


Remember middle school mall trips? You and your friends would run into Hollister Co., instantly met with that oh-so-pungent smell of perfume, dark lighting, and relentless “Can I help you?”s from those “surfer dude” models-turned-sales associates. Another memorable part of those store visits? The relaxed, California-esque music blasting from the speakers that made us happy while we shopped. Music, and only music, allows stores to create these “atmospheres” for us while we browse the clothing racks or grocery isles. But is background music something you fully notice? Do you actively think about what music you’re hearing in a certain store? Maybe not, but perhaps now’s the time to start.

Psychological research has shown that music influences our mood and our behavior. Take this article from Business Insider. It’s no coincidence that stores carefully choose background music to influence their consumers. For example, the article describes how “low-tempo music causes shoppers to move slowly, but they also buy more.” Think that chill music in Hollister was just a representation of the “Cali lifestyle”? It seems unlikely. The article also discusses how certain types of music in stores, i.e. Classical music in an upscale boutique, makes us feel a certain way. We feel classier, more intelligent, and more confident when we listen to certain music genres, and this affects our consumer behavior.

Specifically, retail stores create certain “music lifestyles” to help sell their brand. URBN (Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie) is notorious for their public playlists that somehow fit the mood or “image” of their brand. For example, “Anthropologie On Rotation” on Spotify features playlists carefully chosen to match the relaxed, girly image of their curated line of clothing and accessories. (FYI, I’m currently obsessing over Anthropologie’s “The Best Of Fall” playlist). Since how we dress—and the music we listen to—are both crucial parts of our day-to-day lives, it only makes sense that stores use music to speak to us in a unique way: to make us feel relaxed, happy and positive while we browse their products, which the store’s marketers believe will also make us happier human beings. Some many call this consumer manipulation, but I call it a holistic approach to “retail therapy.”

Our personal style manifests in so many ways, and music is certainly one of them. No wonder that stores integrate music into the shopping experience for their customers. What’s more, this music that “speaks” to consumers about certain brands enhances our lives similarly to how new products make us happy. Sure, listening to a new song is different than wearing a newly bought shirt, but the better thing about the music? It’s got a much longer shelf life than a trendy t-shirt.