More than a Pretty Playlist: Music as a Strategic Marketing Tool
Getting the sound of your establishment right means creating an identity that customers can relate and become loyal to.
By Beatrice Venturini, Hospitality Insights content editor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
These days, fine-tuning your musical decor in harmony with your venue is becoming a big song and dance. To quote digital analyst and thought leader, Brian Solis: "Capturing a moment and turning it into an experience is key to the future of business."
Academic and scientific research has shown how music can, among many things, act as a powerful mood influencer, affect the passing of time, slow or speed up actions and facilitate social interaction (1). It's a proven fact that aesthetic stimuli affects perception, which is why expensive wine shops are likely to play classical music in an attempt to create an air of sophistication that is congruent with their product (2). Getting the sound of your establishment right means creating an identity that customers can relate and become loyal to.
As the role of music in hospitality branding becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, we talk to three protagonists on the Lausanne F&B scene who cannot envisage successful operations without their well-studied musical accompaniment as a key marketing tool.
Seb Kummer - The Great Escape (bar/burger joint)
Seb Kummer is a busy man, co-managing a variety of establishments in Lausanne ranging from the rather fancy eatery La Grappe D'Or to the fabulously scruffy hamburger joint The Great Escape, with the cutesy lakeside Lacustre in between. Despite loving everything to do with menu creation, drink design, decor and people management, when asked why he's in the business and what he adores doing the most, his answer is somewhat surprising: MUSIC.
Music is what got me into this industry, it's key to what I do. The hamburgers at the Great Escape and pizzas at Le Lacustre are just an excuse for playing music, creating a vibe, making people stay and sharing in a convivial experience. The role of music is to offer emotions, make the evening memorable, bring people together and stamp a certain cultural identity onto the venue. Music serves many purposes in fact.
Taking The Great Escape as a case in point, it's a truly successful example of how the roles of food and music can work well together on so many levels: venue branding, customer loyalty and increased consumption. The predominantly British/Irish artisanal beers, easy-going menu and rock'n'roll decor all fuse together thanks to the constant and distinct soundtrack. Music acts as the ultimate glue that binds all the other elements together.
People come to The Great Escape not only to consume certain types of food and drink, but above all to listen to a certain kind of music. Clearly we don't specialize in EDM* or techno, but rather an ear-friendly alternative rock, singer-songwriters and familiar drinking favorites like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and John Mellencamp. Our clientele identifies their experience via the music, this is one of the main factors that ensures their loyalty.
The musical timbre has been meticulously curated by Kummer to suit the international, sport and beer-loving crowd. Tending to his 45,000+ track database is the part of his job he cherishes the most. Fortunately, he is not a musical despot. Customers have become increasingly interactive with the soundtrack, coming forward with their smart phones to request tracks in the same way that they request items from the menu. Thanks to immediate streaming and downloading, Seb often purchases the requested tracks on the spot to create a digital juke box scenario to please everyone. The possibility of the clientele suggesting and sharing music choices is a small but vital detail that seals customer loyalty just as much as happy hour or a 2-for-1 deal.
People undeniably stay longer thanks to the music. There's an exchange of emotions, it's more sensorial. We're in no way a club, but people still find the room to move, dance and express themselves. We had a group of Thai tourists in here the other evening, they suggested some tunes for me to download and play - the evening became memorable for us and them, not to mention the positive feedback on social media. A totally win-win situation: enjoy the experience, capture it, share it virtually. What better publicity is there?
George Marchant - Le Pavillon (bar, restaurant, mini club)
George Marchant is at the head of Lausanne's Pavillon where music is a constantly integral part of the experiential decor. The musical timbre changes depending on the time of day: 76 decibels in the daytime with a playlist based on familiar, vocal tracks; 85 decibels during aperitif time with a nod towards jazz and soul; 93 as of 10pm when drinks and tempo change thanks to a live DJ playing funk and hip-hop midweek, followed by techno and various forms of EDM on Friday and Saturday nights. On summer nights there are live bands and salsa dancing events outside.
In his desire to get the sound of his venue spot on, George prefers to handle the playlist curation himself, assisted by tried and tested DJs with years of experience and a wide knowledge of music.
Music content is a massive part of the F&B business for drawing in customers, making them stay and creating venue personality. But the music has to fit the venue and it must have a personal touch. This is something that has to be tried out and studied, it cannot be considered a minor detail left to chance. Spotify and all the other music platforms are ok up to a certain point, but algorithms are limited, nothing beats the unique detail and nuance that a music professional can add to the mix. Music curation is a growing need and a business that ultimately creates atmosphere, identity, branding - which all result in that X factor: loyalty. Here we try to be sensitive to time and season, using music to bring out the best in both customer experience and consumption.
The Pavillon's location, tucked into a remote corner of Place de la Riponne, is a blessing in many ways. Firstly, music can be played at 93 decibels, (rare for a centrally located bar), because there are no residents living in direct proximity. This means it can get away with being considered a 'mini club', as well as a bar and eatery. Secondly, since it's just a stone's throw away from the Folklor night club known for its edgy techno Berlin vibe, many Folklor DJs agree to start the evening at the Pavillon as a warm up event that finishes at 2 a.m. and then continues across the road. A two-way bonus for both venues whose clientele can count on a sure evening of EDM that starts at 10pm and ends in the early hours of the morning.
A playlist in a bar like the Pavillon is not enough if you want customers to stay, dance, get really involved in the evening and make it a memorable experience. This means someone has to be directing the night - a DJ who acts like a master of ceremony. Drink consumption definitely increases with a DJ leading the night. A playlist just creates an ambiance, but it doesn't seal the deal where evenings are concerned, especially at the weekend. Here at the Pavillon, people know that after 10pm things get moving and the music gets exciting.
Thomas Lecuyer - LP's Bar (Lausanne Palace)
Thomas Lecuyer books the live bands and DJs for the LP's Bar at the Lausanne Palace with an imprint based on warm, stylish sounds fusing elegance with the groove. He's an active member of the Vaud cultural landscape, curating a variety of soirées and events from Fairmont Le Montreux Palace to La Guinguette at Paléo Festival. He is passionate about keeping musical standards high; sound curation for him is a precise, meticulous affair that requires years of experience and know-how.
How important is music and sound design in today's hospitality industry?
TL: The sound design is as important as the choice of decor, lighting, menu and staff. Music is the final and most important ingredient that defines the identity of a venue. It also impacts the mood of customers which, in turn, influences their way of consuming. Via specifically curated music and paying attention to the time of day, we can direct the clientele towards certain desired behaviors: relaxed in the afternoon, animated at aperitif time, festive after dinner. Basically, music can determine whether it's time to drink a cup of tea, beer, gin and tonic, mojito or shots. Turnover is clearly improved where there is well-chosen music in harmony with the establishment. If the menu's good but the music's awful, customers won't return.
Is there a difference in the musical impact between booking a live band or a DJ?
TL: It's not the same job and it depends on what atmosphere is required. If you want a dance floor in your bar, get a DJ. If you want a touch of culture and human appreciation, book a live band. Live music brings life, freshness and a different kind of interaction. It's a performance, something is happening live in front of your eyes, there's something to watch as well as listen to.
Is there a difference between a nice playlist and a live DJ?
TL: Yes! It's like a ready-made cocktail compared to one made live in front of you by the bartender. A good DJ has know-how, a presence, a feeling that even the best playlist cannot have. The spontaneous relationship created between a DJ and the dance floor is unique and irreplaceable.
Is there a genre of music that is more successful than others in increasing consumption and clientele numbers?
TL: It depends on the venue. The important thing is to define the ambiance you want to create in line with the style of your venue and to stick to it. There's nothing worse than a place that aims for "all styles of music" or "the hits". It's soulless, without atmosphere. How can a clientele become loyal, attached to your establishment, if there's no particular identity or character?"
Would you say sound curation is a growing business?
TL: Definitely. A sound curator is a musical chef choosing the best ingredients: equipment, technicians, DJs and musicians to prepare the most suitable menu for the season. It's a vital role, hence the growing amount of new companies specializing in tailor-made playlists for every type of venue from spa to hotel lobby. The one-man-band playing all the hits on a Yamaha synthesizer and rhythm machine is over. Accidental, haphazard music is over. It's a subtle, complex, nuanced business that has to be done with feeling and heart by professionals.
With "experiential design" becoming progressively the in-word of our industry, music curation is undeniably a niche market in full expansion. Used effectively as a marketing tool, music can help communicate the branding, personality and target audience of your establishment. It is a wonderful story-telling device that drives human emotion, reaction and interaction. But above all, it can be the magical ingredient that seduces your clientele to return time and time again.
*electronic dance music
Beatrice VenturiniMore from Beatrice Venturini
Phone: +41 21 785 1354