&Quot;This Note's For You* ... :&Quot; Negative Effects of the Commercial Use of Popular Music

Basil G. Englis, Rutgers University
Greta E. Pennell, Rutgers University
[ to cite ]:
Basil G. Englis and Greta E. Pennell (1994) ,"&Quot;This Note's For You* ... :&Quot; Negative Effects of the Commercial Use of Popular Music", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 97.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Page 97


Basil G. Englis, Rutgers University

Greta E. Pennell, Rutgers University

* Neil Young (1988), This Note's For You, Reprise Records. "...Ain't singin' for Pepsi; Ain't singin' for Coke; I don't sing for nobody; makes me look like a joke; this note's for you..."

Music is a prominent promotional tool and a hallmark of effective television advertisements. However, despite much recent attention by consumer researchers, the effects of music on consumer behavior remain poorly understood. The assumption guiding most marketers' use of music, as well as consumer research on its effectiveness, has been that well-liked (or disliked) music elicits pleasurable (or aversive) responses in a reflex-like manner. According to this model using well-liked music in a commercial should translate into positive attitudes toward the product, brand, and the ad itself. However, inconsistency in the early empirical findings and recent work concerning the meaningfulness of music, point to a need for more sophisticated models of how music influences listeners' reactions to its use as a promotional tool.

For many people music is heavily imbued with meaning. And, this meaning is an important determinant of how music is experienced. Therefore, understanding how music influences consumer behavior is predicated on understanding what that music means to the individuals who create and consume it. It is important to note, however, that meaning is not an inherent property of the music, but rather arises as a result of listeners' active and reflective interpretive processes.

This panel considered how music acquires "deeper" levels of meaning and how this meaning influences consumer behavior. We also brought together interpretive and experimental methods, as well as idiographic and nomothetic approaches to investigate the meanings that listeners attach to music and how these meanings influence their responses to advertising messages. Finally, work that employed several distinct levels of analysis, ranging from broad socio-historical, to subcultural, to highly individualistic perspectives, was presented.

Linda M. Scott-Using "Revolution:" A Case Study in Intentionality, Cooptation, and Resistance

This paper explored the question of intentionality through a historically situated textual analysis of the Nike "Revolution" campaign. The objective is to understand the role of commercial intention (actual and inferred) on consumer's perception of cooptation. Oral histories taken from the advertisement's creative team, as well as internal documents covering the negotiations over the rights to use the song were used to examine intentionality. The negotiation of intentionalities was explored in the conflict between the creative team's intentions and those of Yoko Ono, Michael Jackson, and the Beatles. [The Nike research was supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Institution.] Consumers' letters were used to illustrate their resistance to the "cooptation" of this song. This was related to the conflict between the song's socio-historical meaning and the inferred intention behind its use (using "the revolution" to sell shoes). The analysis of these letters suggest that, contrary to the assumptions of Critical Theory, consumers are not uncritical and passive passive receivers of commercial messages.

Elizabeth Blair-From Subculture to Mass Culture: Hegemony Theory Revisited

One way that music acquires meaning is through its association with and use by a culture. This presentation examined the transformation of the subcultural meanings attached to music when it is "adopted" by marketers and advertisers. Hegemony theory was used to explain how musical meaning evolves as its association with a particular subculture is expanded to a larger social sphere, thereby preserving "mass" culture and its inherent power structure. Although the meanings associated with marginalized or "lower" subculture products change, the group's status does not. The aim of this presentation was to document the hegemonic process at work by analyzing examples of the cooptation of rap and heavy metal music. Field interview data were presented to illustrate how this process is perceived and experienced by members of originating subculture.

Greta E. Pennell and Basil G. Englis-When "Hits" Strikeout: Loving the Song but Hating the Product

This presentation described an empirical study designed to test the hypothesis that a well-liked piece of music, when placed in the context of a commercial communication, may result in a negative effect on the product (target of the persuasive message). We take the perspective that "meaningfulness" is highly individualistic. Therefore, we index the meaningfulness of the music used in this study at an individual level. However, our experimental paradigm for studying the effect of music in television advertising allows us to generalize beyond the case of a single individual or advertisement. In-depth, one-on-one interviews revealed that participants disliked "their" music being used for the purpose of advertising, and this effect was moderated somewhat by the experimental context. Also, participants demonstrated very poor product recall when meaningful music was used as background in the ads.

Wanda T. Wallace-Discussant

The concluding discussion highlighted the convergent conclusions of the papers. This point is especially important in light of the diversity of research methods represented in the panel. Additional research should examine the different ways meaningfulness evolves and the possible role that different types of meaningfulness play in determining music's effectiveness in an advertising context. For example, is the negative effects reported in these papers limited to music whose meaning is derived from lyrical content? Or would consumers also react negatively to the commercial use of music that is meaningful because it is associated with a meaningful past, and personal event? Finally, Wallace suggested that additional research is needed regarding possible positive effects of the commercial use of meaningful music.