Special Session Summary Music, Meaning, and Magic: Revisiting Music Research

Wanda T. Wallace, Duke University
[ to cite ]:
Wanda T. Wallace (1997) ,"Special Session Summary Music, Meaning, and Magic: Revisiting Music Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, eds. Merrie Brucks and Deborah J. MacInnis, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 301-302.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, 1997      Pages 301-302



Wanda T. Wallace, Duke University


Music is regularly touted by advertisers as a way to achieve vitality, memorability, and excitement in an ad campaign, and it is commonly used in television advertising. Despite much enthusiasm about music research over the past several years, we have yet to develop consistent data and overall frameworks to guide research. The purpose of this session was to look again at music with the hope of stimulating new thought and beginning to resolve conflicting perspectives.



Annabel J. Cohen, University of Prince Edward Island

Music plays an integral part in the experience of film but exactly how it contributes has been little explored or explained (Cohen, 1990, 1993, 1994). Anecdotal evidence suggests that music impacts upon the interpretation, memory, and sense of reality of the film. Through psychology experiments it is possible to specifically demonstrate some of these effects. A Congruence-Associationist framework for such explorations is proposed to encompass music and film stimuli that are often extremely complex (Marshall & Cohen, 1988; Bolivar, Cohen & Fentress, 1994). The framework considers separately two aspects of film and music: the formal or structural components and the meaning or associationist aspects. These aspects reflect both bottom-up (gestalt/structural) and top-down (higher-level, cognitive, associationist) processs respectively. The basic idea is that when music and film are structurally congruent (e.g., accent patterns are aligned), the associations or meanings of the music have greater impact overall; moreover, it is specifically proposed that the musical associations are directed to that part of the visual display that is in formal congruence with the music. Results from several experiments examining meaning and memory are considered in this context. It is maintained that the framework is useful for organizing the diverse data in this area and in generating new research. It is also suggested that this framework might be relevant to explaining the effects of music on attention and memory in television advertising.



Wanda T. Wallace, Duke University

Julie A. Edell, Duke University

Marian C. Moore, Duke University

We examine how the presence of music and the presence of various musical structures affect consumers feelings about the ad, attitude toward the ad, and attitude toward the brand for 46 television advertisements. When music is present within an ad, warm feelings increase and uneasy feelings decrease. When music is prominently presented in the ad, upbeat feelings increase and disinterested feelings decrease. Musical structures such as major key, complex harmony, staccato rhythm, volume and tempo, familiarity of the music, and whether the brand name is sung significantly affect whether warm, upbeat, or uneasy feelings will be experienced. Not all structures act in the same manner. For example, a staccato rhythm diminishes warm feelings but increases upbeat feelings; however, the presence of familiar music increases both warm and upbeat feelings. In addition, features such as music’s prominence within the ad, changes in volume and tempo, dancing, and melodic repetition enhance the effects of the musical structures listed above on feeling responses, while music carrying the primary message suppresses the effects of the musical structures. Finally, musical structures significantly affect attitudes toward the ad and brand, in addition to the influence these structures exert on feelings.



Susan E. Heckler, University of Arizona

Dudley Blossom, University of Arizona

Drawing primarily from the work of Wallace (Wallace, 1994; Wallace, Edell and Moore, 1995; Wallace and Schulkind, 1996), Scott (1990), and work in Music Theory, three operational roles of music in television advertisements were proposed. These three roles are defined as follows: a) background in which music creates a feeling about the ad but not the product or brand; b) context in which music provides a frame of reference which helps the listener understand the advertised product or enhances product characteristics; and c) information in which music conveys specific product information or further defines product characteristics.

An exploratory study was conducted using two existing scales: the transformational scale (Puto & Wells, 1984; Puto, 1986; Puto and Hoyer, 1990; Puto, Julnes and Wooten, 1995) and the involvement scale (Zaichkowsky, 1985). Undergraduate marketing students viewed television advertisements selected by judges for their musical role and the appropriateness of the music for the Ss. Ss responded to the transformation and involvement scale items and to a series of open ended questions designed to support the ad selection and record the emotional response to the ad and music. Based on the findings, it appears that different operational roles of music in television advertisements result in altered levels transformation and involvement in the ads. Additional research is required, however, to ascertain the level of statistical significance of these findings.



Wanda T. Wallace, Duke University

Although there has been much interest in music’s impact on marketing, research has not presented a consistent and coherent perspective. Using views from music theory and music cognition and perception, musical structures are grouped into the types of processes they evoke. These processes include creating positive/negative reactions, adding energy, setting expectations, organizing and repeating at encoding, and encouraging elaboration and association. From the combination of these processes, four effects can be producedCemotional, memory, cognitive, and somatic effects. These effects are not independent of each other, and each is needed in order to understand how music influences consumers. Thus, we can observe that music can both increase recallability of lyrics but decrease cognitive processing of the lyrical message. Furthermore, as emotional responses to music increase, cognitive and memory processes may diminish. Therefore, in order to understand the effects that music exerts on consumers we need to examine a full range of effects and consider how these effects interact.



Morris Holbrook, Columbia University

Linda Scott, University of Illinois

First, in keeping with the theme of the conference, the audience was encouraged to think out of the box about music and to consider other aspects of music. Surprise is often a very effective persuasive device. In order to extend out knowledge of music, the audience was encouraged to consider music as more than a means to an end or an operational tool by examining aspects such as music as the product, the consumer’s aesthetic responses, the perception, evaluation and emotion of music, the intrinsic value of music, and the experience of listening to music.

Second, the audience was reminded that music is not independent of its context. Furthermore, the structures and aspects of music as well as the responses to music should vary by culture. Thus, what one culture considers structure may not be important in another culture.


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