I’ve heard that brand before: the role of music recognition on consumer choice


When searching for and buying new products, consumers’ knowledge is often limited, and some (but not all) options in the choice set are unrecognized. In such situations, research on the recognition heuristic shows that people tend to choose more often the recognized option over the unrecognized one, as they infer it has the higher value regarding the criterion being judged. Since humans are particularly good at rapidly recognising familiar music, this paper examines the effect of recognition to influence brand choice when using music as the recognition cue. In two experiments (N = 486), participants were familiarised with several excerpts of advertising music. Participants then performed a choosing task to decide which of two brands they would purchase when searching for different products (e.g., headphones, cameras). Brands were either presented with familiar music clips or completely novel ones. Results showed that pairing brands with music that can be recognised by the target consumers increased brand choice by 6% (d = .21). Importantly, participants’ preferences for the advertising music also influenced brand choice, increasing the effect of recognition when the music was liked and suppressing it in extreme cases when the music was most disliked. This suggests that ad practitioners should use a cue integration framework when working with music, weighing all available musical and extra-musical cues according to their impact on the target consumers. Results are discussed in terms of the practical implications of measuring brand’s ROI when working with music and the value of the heuristics-and-biases framework to study music effects on consumer behaviour.

International Journal of Advertising