Manipulating Musical Minds

I learned something about subliminal manipulation of consumers recently while reading Parade Magazine. What I learned didn't surprise me. A study has show that if you play French music in a grocery store's wine department, folks buy more French wine. If you play German music they buy more German wine:

"In one experiment over a two-week period, British researchers played
either accordion-heavy French music or a German brass band over the speakers of the wine section
inside a large supermarket. On French music days, 77% of consumers bought French wine, whereas on
German music days, the vast majority of consumers picked up a German selection. Intriguingly, only
one out of the 44 customers who agreed to answer a few questions at the checkout counter mentioned
the music as among the reasons they bought the wine they did."

It's not quite as subtle as flashing "buy coke" once every 100 frames in a movie theater, but it's the same idea. But it got me thinking, what music would a store pipe in if they wanted to sell American-made wines?

Me being me, I immediately thought it would have to be Jazz, the only true art form to originate in America. However, I don't think that would do the trick. Jazz is now an international art form.

So what are we left with that would put an American shiver down a buyer's spine and force them to reach for Zinfandel? I can't imagine any grocer piping in The American National Anthem or "Yankee Doodle Dandy" or "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful". All lovely tunes, but probably not suitable for the Safeway experience.

The best I could come up with were classic Broadway tunes. I'm thinking Richard Rogers, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern stuff. Even Cole Porter. Am I missing something? Unlike France and Germany and Italy, is America without a categorical sound that makes people immediately think: "Ah, America! Gimme That Zin!"


17 Responses

  1. Pablo Lastorta - January 5, 2009

    Very interesting. It’s true if you think about it, certain music does give an association with wine from different countries. Same thing is happening in Argentina, they are using modern Tango music style to accompany wine events or any marketable association when presenting wines from Argentina.
    As to American wine associating with music, I believe you are right. It’s hard to close your eyes and imaging what style of musical arrangements would go with Zins!
    I do like the BevMo music on their radio commercials though! Something about that jumpy Violin music gets me thinking about wine.

  2. epona - January 5, 2009

    Just how many times could Bruce Sprinsteen’s “Born In The USA” be played in a retail establishment before the employees would go mad?

  3. Thomas Pellechia - January 5, 2009

    Cole and Irving would be my bet, and Kern, and the Gershwins, and of course, Hank Williams!

  4. Jerry Murray - January 5, 2009

    Lets not forget Bluegrass as an original american artform! Not as refined as jazz but every bit as homegrown. What about Ellington????
    I think the problem with identifying an ‘american sound’ is that american music is now the music that shapes the worlds sounds, to a large extent, that one can almost say that MOST music reflects american culture.

  5. Morton Leslie - January 5, 2009

    Did they say if Hip Hop made customers buy more Cristal?

  6. Fredric Koeppel - January 5, 2009

    How about Sousa marches?

  7. Thomas Pellechia - January 5, 2009

    Of course, the real Native American music needs to be played not around the wine but around the smoke shop…

  8. Joe Dressner - January 5, 2009

    I’ve always found that Chris De Burgh singing Lady In Red is the most compelling music for purchasing American wine.

  9. SEO Melbourne - January 6, 2009

    I think the problem with identifying an ‘american sound’ is that american music is now the music that shapes the worlds sounds, to a large extent, that one can almost say that MOST music reflects american culture.

  10. Iris - January 6, 2009

    Did they find out, how many customers left the store, the days they played German Brass (I presume that is a kind of Oktoberfest Bavarian beer drinking medley?) – I would have been among those without any doubt:-)!
    All right for Cole Porter or Sinatra as American Sound – but if I heard it in a French or German supermarket, it would probably drive me to the chips department and a bottle of whiskey than to the wine shelves…

  11. Iris - January 6, 2009

    Thinking about it once more: Summerwine from Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra would perhaps make me look for a Californian wine, even in Germany…especially, if it comes in a medley with Going to San Francisco and other reminders of my 68…

  12. Thomas Pellechia - January 6, 2009

    I don’t know Iris–hearing anything from the name Sinatra might make people run to the roulette or craps tables…and the price of wine at those places makes it worth buying whiskey!

  13. Eric - January 6, 2009

    The problem with so much of American music is that it tends to be regional. Springsteen popped to my mind too, though Pablo is right, you have to keep the salespeople’s minds in the game. So I guess to get people to buy CA wine (at least), I’ll vote The Beach Boys…

  14. Dan Cochran - January 6, 2009

    Just put Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” on an endless loop and you’ve got your solution.

  15. JohnL - January 6, 2009

    I think it is demographic specific, what subliminal messaging from the public address system induces shoppers to examine each subsegment of a display, or even regions of a store, as well as the kind of retail establishment piping the music.
    I have noticed at the jiffy burrito shop which pumps gasoline and has a range of creature labeled as well as more upscale wine for sale for tourist trade in a principal turnout on the highway, that musica ranchera simplifies choice making for some customers.
    At the plaza one block up the frontage street, is a supermarket, where seemingly anything new country music will fill the beer locker vending doors as well as the generic wine shelves with happy shoppers. Wisely, management has divided the areas with an ecclectic array of chips, but mistakenly has placed the deli at the far end of the two acres of supermarket floor space.
    It is interesting, that America seems to have skipped the phenomenon of wine associated music altogether. Yodeling does not please too many folks who are shopping, though neither does Italian Swiss make table wine these days. Then there was a 70s tune by, I think, Van Morrison, or Dave Mason, which covered the topic pretty well, and, of course, the solo Dylan and duet Johnny Cash and Dylan song which prominently mentioned wine in the same 1970s. The folks that live in $600,000.+ homes in the tracts developed in neo-urban area by the plaza probably prefer music more tasteful than is available in a grocery store, so perhaps therein lies part of the problem, educating chainstores.
    I used to sell guitars in the music shop section of a national chainstore whose manager demanded we play Guy Lombardo each holiday all day, though in those my very young years, that manager seemed to notice that I sold more electric guitars when good modern electric guitar music was playing storewide. Of course, there was the famous conductor who christened his big band music “champagne music”; I doubt that would do much in Napa market venues to spur northern France wine consumption or even region I Napa AVA champagnes or Yorkville Highland sparkling red pinots. Times change. I hear there is a definite renaissance of US mandolin picking, and phrasing; maybe that restored genre holds promise.
    I checked one of the famous recent movies about wine tasting for the prize ranking of its score writing; no mention at all.

  16. seo services - January 7, 2009

    I think the problem with identifying an ‘american sound’ is that american music is now the music that shapes the worlds sounds, to a large extent..

  17. Dylan - January 7, 2009

    The same effect has also been done with pumping out synthetic smells like “fresh-baked cookies” to lure people into mall bakeries, or the air conditioning that draws people in from the street on hot summer days. As for the music of America, there is none. It’s all-encompassing, it’s a cultural mash of here and there, past and present. Even isolated genres, such as pop and rock, have become Pop/Rock.
    We don’t have instruments that scream the whole of America. If you heard the ukulele, you think Hawaii, not America. If you hear the Harmonica or Banjo, you think the South, not America. However, that’s for American’s listening in. What if this music was played in a foreign wine market? Would they consider Banjo an American sound or just southern? Would Germans listen to the same German music played in the study and think, “Oh, that’s a Northern sound.”?

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