Music Manipulation in Corporate America

Music has been proved to have a strong power over our brains. Particular songs can make us emotional, recall memories, or remind us of someone. It can call upon emotions of anger, sadness, and happiness. Music has the effect of intensifying or underlining the emotion which a particular event calls forth, by simultaneously coordinating the emotions of a group of people (Storr 24). Music increase arousal such as: alertness, awareness, and excitement. This arousal can cause your pupils to dilate as well as, heighten blood pressure and heart rate (Storr 25). These are involuntary effects that give us an indication as to the powerful effects music has on our sub-conscious. Since we understand music greatly effects our subconscious, what happens when it is implemented to manipulate our ideas, thoughts and feelings? The application of music can influence product expectations and the connotations of a company. This thesis will take a closer look at how music has been historically used with focus on how companies of corporate America use music within their marketing campaigns to manipulate us.

Throughout history music has been used both positively and negatively. Understanding the historical references of how persuasion has been created through the use of music will allow insight to why modern-day marketing tactics have been implemented. Lullabies are one of the most universal forms of music, and found in all cultures (Hargreaves 124). Lullabies are an example of how music can be used for a positive purpose. They have a slow tempo that causes a soothing effect causing the child to calm down or fall asleep. This form of music proves that even the young minds of babies and children are involuntarily affected through sound. Music used at ceremonies and festivals create the atmosphere and set the tone for the crowd. Music is used across all cultures to induce emotions. Drumbeats may create a mood of mourning for the death of a chief or a sense of pageant for the installation of a new ruler (Hargreaves 129).

Lullabies, ceremonies and festivals are blissful reasons music is used to persuade. I wanted to research the adverse to these reasons and see when music was used negatively or as propaganda to support unjust motives. Hitler is a prime example as to how music can be used to change perspectives. Hitler was effective because he pulled on emotions of the people. The music he played at events promoted the same emotional response as the banners he had made and the words he spoke. He pushed for arousal of his audience and making them experience the same over and over again (Storr 47). The Nazis exercised complete control over the Bund Deutscher Mädel and the Hitlerjugend—youth groups in which participation was compulsory for young girls and boys, respectively, after 1939 (Perris 74). The Nazi’s create a songbook the youth would sing and a major portion of the HJ/BDM’s song material was adapted from preexisting sources. The medleys and ideas hidden within the songs were along slide Nazi propaganda songs. Hitler used music to psychologically imprint on the younger generation. In addition to playing NS games simulating plane attacks and war games, songs glorifying Hitler, and war songs were performed (Perris 75). Hitler used repetition and music to engender the youth with his beliefs and ideals.

After taking a deeper look into historical events I began to comprehend how music is being used as a tool and how it has been integrated into this heavily consumer-driven society. We have a mass amount of goods every way we turn, even the growing avenue of online shopping. Overloading the visual cortex with too much similar or identical data gives way to repetition blindness (Pradeep 124). Music is a way companies strengthen our memory retention of their products and persona. Music is commonly a powerful mnemonic device which enables us to retain something we normally would forget. Therefore, a company which uses a catchy jingle will connect with consumers. Music enables the company to be distinguished as unique and sets them apart from competitors who are not implementing musical jingles. The reason being, we see many similar products everyday therefore, we need an aspect that speaks to a different sense besides sight, such as sound.

A case study was conducted by Gorn in 1982 which explored the attitude towards a product when classical conditioning was involved. Classical conditioning implies that pairing a product with a liked piece of music should produce an association between the two, and therefore liking for the product.” In this particular instance 79 per cent of subjects chose the pen that was associated with music the liked music (taken from the film ‘Grease’) rather than the “unliked” (classical Indian music) (Hargreaves 270). The classic “jingle” is the most common musical technique for aiding memorability and hence product recall. Some of the biggest products and companies in the world are successful not just because of customer satisfaction, but because customers like a particular jingle in an advertisement. A good jingle catches the customer’s attention and makes the consumer think twice about a product. From the 102 respondents, 53 were female and 49 were male. The usage of jingles in advertisements is more effective than the usage of slogans (the use of verbal cues) (Karailievová 2). However, it was shown in this same study that slogans can be more effective than jingles. All fifteen of the verbal cues (slogans) were identified correctly 838 times, as opposed to the 785 times when jingles were identified correctly. Slogans were not identified at all in 481 cases and jingles in 634 cases (Karailievová 2). Case studies help to show how music effects our buying brain out of the buying context.

Taking a thorough look into companies profit from particular marketing campaigns

There is no way to eliminate companies using music nor is there a solution to how our brain reacts to music. This research does not argue the implementation of music in marketing tactics being detrimental to our overall mental health. However, it is significant to bring awareness to the manipulative power music possesses. The knowledge of how companies are profiting from our subconscious can allow one to make a more conscious decision about a company and their marketing devices.

To further my research in my final paper I will elaborate on emotional effects music can cause on an individual. I also want to talk about the emergence of neuromarketing and what it is. After talking about the conducted case studies I will bring this topic to actual marketing campaigns that used music as a main component (Fanta, Oscar Myer, and K-9 Advantix). I hope to evaluate and display through statistical data and possibly annual reports how companies are profiting from our subconscious. I hope to show the success music brought to the company by comparing profits from a campaign that used music alongside a strictly visual campaign.

Hargreaves, D. (1997). The Social Psychology of Music. New York: Oxford University Press.

Karailievová, I. (2012). Impact of Songs and Jingles Used in Advertising on Brand and Product Awareness.

Perris, A. (1985). Music as Propaganda. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Pradeep, A. (2010). The Buying Brain. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Storr, A. (1992). Music and the Mind. New York: The Free Press.


2 thoughts on “Music Manipulation in Corporate America

  1. slaudeman says:


    You have a very strong draft assembled. I think that our projects will follow more closely than we had originally thought. In fact, you want to address the emotional responses to music, which is exactly what my paper focuses on. All in all, the draft is very effective. You have a number of places where words seem to be missing, and fixing those gaps will help with the readability of the paper. Also, I think that your thesis could possibly be made clearer. You write, “This thesis will take a closer look at how music has been historically used with focus on how companies of corporate America use music within their marketing campaigns to manipulate us.” I think that you could break this apart, into a list or perhaps even two sentences, in order to highlight what the two items you are going to focus on are. Maybe you could reword it to say something like, “Music has been historically to encourage reactions in the audience. Specifically, this fact is evinced in corporate American marketing campaigns.” I think that the emphasis in your thesis is not clear right now, and that the brunt of your project is focusing on the efficacy of music in marketing, not music in a historical context. Also, some of your paragraph transitions seem halting. I might suggest rereading those and seeing if you can find a better way to transition from point to point. Generally, your ideas make sense in the order they are presented. You have done a very good job!

    -Sara Laudeman


  2. ballen68 says:

    Hi Katelyn,

    You did a great job here with your first draft! Since I am a business marketing major I figured I would take a look at your draft since it has so much to do with corporate America, and their marketing campaigns specifically. I think that your thoughts to provide data and evidence of the success of these marketing tactics in your final is an excellent idea. I would also suggest that in doing this you use companies that you spoke of here in your draft. Make sure that the companies are something that most people will know. I would also like to propose that you ask your readers if they have ever noticed that they have been influenced by this music. It’s extremely funny to me that so many people say that they are immune to marketing, or that it doesn’t affect them, but marketing affects everyone whether they admit it or not. People are not in touch with their subconscious on a deep enough level to block out marketing initiatives. Sparking that initial question in your reader’s mind of “Am I effected by marketing initiatives?”, and then showing them that they absolutely are would be a very interesting way to organize your paper. It would really get people to think about the seriousness of the ethics behind American marketing. I also agree with Sara, it would be a good idea to break your thesis up into two separate sentences, as they are two separate pieces. I think that the reason you made it all one sentence is because you want to be able to connect the two ideas. However, I think that you can still successfully do that without complicating it by having it all in one sentence. I enjoyed reading your post though and I’m excited to see your final.



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