The Effects of Music in Conditioning Brand Preference: Replication and Extension


Kunal Basu, Marvin Goldberg, and Gerald J. Gorn (1990) ,"The Effects of Music in Conditioning Brand Preference: Replication and Extension", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, eds. Marvin E. Goldberg, Gerald Gorn, and Richard W. Pollay, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 535.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17, 1990      Page 535


Kunal Basu, McGill University

Marvin Goldberg, McGill University

Gerald J. Gorn, University of British Columbia

The role of music in influencing brand preference has been examined in Marketing/Advertising with varying paradigmatic orientations. Of the two dominant approaches, one is based on presumed characteristics of communication processes (i.e., the hierarchy of effects, or information processing), and the other, on classical conditioning. In the first, music is viewed as a peripheral cue in advertising or some brand-related message, and its effects traced through viewers'/customers' information processing stages. The emphasis here is on the potential effects of music on recipients' attention, as well as attitude towards an ad, either by itself, or in combination with other executional aspects.

Classical conditioning approaches, however, focus directly on the impact of music on brand preference or choice, without necessarily examining intervening cognitive mechanisms (i.e., comprehension, elaboration or evaluation). The classical associative relationship between an unconditioned stimulus (e.g., music), and the target conditioned stimulus (i.e., brand) is examined experimentally, focusing on design characteristics that alleviate demand characteristics and allow reliable and valid interpretation of findings.

Despite the potential for such a direct relationship between music and brand preference (Gorn 1982; Nord and Peter 1980; Allen and Madden 1985; McSweeney and Bierley 1984; Shimp 1989), the effect awaits replication and extensions that cover the range of the phenomenon.


Subjects were asked to participate in a market research project to evaluate the quality of a boom box. They were exposed to a neutral (i.e., unfamiliar) brand of boom box (conditioned stimulus), in the context of music (unconditioned stimulus) played through its speakers. Four experimental conditions were created, with different musical pieces played to each group, each followed by an ad for an unfamiliar low-involvement product. The musical pieces were pretested to elicit very positive, positive, negative and very negative reactions. It was expected that subjects' evaluations of the speakers would be affected by their level of liking towards the music played on the speakers.

Results of the study were discussed with attention to both persuasion as well as demand assessment indices.


Allen, Chris T. and Thomas J. Madden (1985). "A Closer Look at Classical Conditioning", Journal of Consumer Research 12 (December), 301-315.

Gorn, Gerald J. (1982). "The Effects of Music in Advertising on Choice Behavior: A Classical Conditioning Approach", Journal of Marketing 46 (Winter), 94-101.

McSweeney, Frances K. and Calvin Bierley (1984), "Recent Developments in Classical Conditioning", Journal of Consumer Research 11 (September), 619 -631.

Nord, Walter R. and J. Paul Peter (1980), "A Behavior Modification Perspective on Marketing", Journal of Marketing, 44 (Spring), 36-47.

Shimp, Terence A. "Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning and Its Implications for Consumer Theory and Research", in Handbook of Consumer Theory and Research (forthcoming).



Kunal Basu, McGill University
Marvin Goldberg, McGill University
Gerald J. Gorn, University of British Columbia


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 17 | 1990

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