Companies selling ethical and sustainable products should use up-tempo major mode music in their marketing to help well-meaning consumers convert their good intentions into actual purchases, new research from the University of Bath shows.

The research offers a way for green companies to overcome the consumer ‘attitude-behaviour gap’, where what consumers say differs from what they actually do, a particular challenge in ethical and sustainable markets.

Studies have shown that about 30% of consumers claim to care about brand ethics but a mere 3% translate their words into action. A similar number claim to care about green consumption but only 5% purchase green products.

“This attitude gap is a serious marketing problem because any exaggeration of consumers’ ethical concerns can distort the market, leading to oversupply. Our research suggests one way to bridge that gap is to use advertising music more creatively — specifically, to use up-tempo, major-mode music,” said Dr Haiming Hang of the University’s School of Management. A music mode is a type of scale with distinct melodic characteristics. It can be classified as major or minor, and can produce strong but very different feelings and emotional responses among consumers. While major mode music is often associated with positive emotions such as happiness and joy, minor mode music is often associated with negative emotions such as sadness and anger. Tempo is the speed at which the musical passage progresses — music is considered slow when the tempo is less than 72 beats per minute, and fast when the tempo is over 94 beats per minute.

“It’s no surprise that music influences consumers — we know that consumers who enjoy the music associated with brands will view that brand more positively and it will make them more likely to buy the product. That’s the subjective aspect of music — what’s more significant is the objective aspect — tempo and mode,” Hang said.

“Our research shows major mode music is effective in reducing the attitude-behaviour gap by 40% to 50%. And since fast tempo music tends to generate positive feelings such as happiness our research suggests the attitude-behaviour gap is smallest when major mode music is played at a fast tempo,” he said. Hang said the study — ‘Disentangling effects of subjective and objective characteristics of advertising music’ — created several radio advertisements for two fictitious products: an electric car (EcoCar) and a reusable coffee mug (EcoMug) and examined how music affected purchase intentions across multiple experiments.

Hang said the research findings held true regardless of consumers’ music background and for any type of green product being advertised.

“Marketers must be aware that simply incorporating a piece of music that consumers enjoy may not be sufficient. When incorporating music into advertisements, marketers must recognise the importance of music mode and music tempo to ensure that a favourable attitude towards a brand translates into sales,” Hang said.

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Materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.