Sound and Environment

9 February 2021

Throughout time, research has shown the impact of sound over people’s mood, emotions and attitudes. In fact, music is one environmental cue with demonstrated effects on individuals’ moods, perceptions and behaviours. For instance, a proper use of music can increase an individual’s pleasure and arousal. 

Sound is more important than it seems. It can affect the way we behave but also how we drink and eat or the way we perceive certain foods or beverages. For example, people can actually tell the difference between hot and cold beverages after hearing them poured. A further study, carried out by Fiegel et al. (2014), has also shown that people’s overall impression for food stimuli can vary by listening to different genres of background music. In fact, people may rate food as more pleasant while listening to jazz music rather than hip hop. 

In the retail context, music strongly affects consumers’ behaviour and elements such as product choice, time spent in-store, sales, perception of shopping time and perception of store (Sayin et al. 2013). Moreover, music can be utilised to communicate the identity and values of a brand and it can influence the perception of brand personality (Mas, 2019). For instance, Magnini & Parker (2008) reported that classical music influences people to rate a restaurant as more intelligent. 

Interestingly, sound also has a significant effect on individuals’ perceived safety of an environment. For instance, a study carried out by Sayin et al. (2013) has shown that animal or human vocal sounds increase perceived safety of individuals in a typically frightening environment such as a car park during the night. 

Generally speaking, fit-for-purpose use of music within a physical environment can influence people to spend more time within the environment itself (Magnini & Parker, 2008). For instance, when listening to familiar music, consumers shop longer than when listening to unfamiliar music. Moreover, environmental sound also affects product evaluation. In fact, consumers evaluate products higher when they are exposed to familiar music rather than unfamiliar one (Yalch & Spangenberg, 2000). 

Music also impacts consumers’ purchases. Magnini & Parker (2008) argued that it can cause consumers to spend more money. This happens when people perceive that the music type is congruent with the brand environment. Moreover, background music also influences how individuals interact within an environment. In fact, the sole presence of background music can increase conversation and the extent of smiling and eye contact between individuals. 

Sound is something we don’t often notice consciously but our subconsciousness is frankly hungry for it. When sound is missing from an environment, whether that’s music or conversations, the space feels empty, unsafe and not engaging. However, when sound is bad chosen for the brand, the human brain identifies it as lack of comfort and distrust, which most often leads to abandoning the shopping. 

Clearly, a strategically chosen sound to your brand in your physical environments, videos or other touchpoints is a necessity for any brand’s success. 

We have been working with many brands on their Sensory Brand Signatures and how to apply them to their branding, marketing and physical environments. No touchpoint is exempt. Words have unique sounds too, so even your product name or description on your e-commerce page has a power of expressing your brand personality or affecting the perception of product value.  

Do you know how your brand sounds? 

Wondering how to use sound to create incredible customer experience for your store reopening? Go ahead and check our Store Reopening consultation! 



Antin, C. Retrieved from:

Fiegel et al. (2014). Background music genre can modulate flavour pleasantness and overall impression of food stimuli. Appetite, 76, 144 -152. Retrieved from:

Magnini & Parker (2008). The psychological effects of music: implications for hotel firms. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 15(1), 53-62. Retrieved from:

Mas, L. 2019. Sonic logos: an experimental design on sound features and brand personality: Retrieved from:

Sayin, et al. (2013). Sound and safe: the effect of ambient sound on the perceived safety of public spaces. International Journal of research in marketing, 1-11. Retrieved from:

Yalch & Spangenberg. (2000). The Effects of music in a retail setting on real and perceived shopping times. Journal of Business Research, 49(2), 139-147. Retrieved from:

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