Paul Burke: Musical Musings and Consumer Perception
I’m a fairly useless human being. This isn’t false modesty; I really am worse than most people at most things.
Especially practical things.
I cannot paint, plumb or plaster and turn a deathly shade of pale at the very mention of self-assembly furniture. It’s not that I think practical chores are beneath me. On the contrary – I think they’re beyond me.
Yet even I’m not useless enough to be excused from basic domestic drudgery. During the lockdown, of course, I’ve had to do more than my fair share but have been surprisingly happy to do so one condition: I must have music.
Cleaning the kitchen, Ciffing the bathroom – no chore is too dull with the right soundtrack. Music has been a central part of my life ever since I was tiny and piled my three elder sisters’ Tamla-Motown 45s on to the long spindle of a red and cream Dansette. Years later, I took this habit much further by playing records in clubs all over London. This was one of the only two things at which I wasn’t completely hopeless. The other was writing ads. It’s how I’ve always earned my living and mercifully, it’s spared me the Mr Bean-esque indignity of ever attempting any sort of DIY.
In advertising, the role of music can be vital in setting the tone for consumer perception. There was probably no finer use of it than the “Hamlet Music”: Jacque Loussier’s obscure version of Bach’s Air on a G String which so deftly captured the transition of disaster into delight.
Except perhaps the “British Airways” music; the Flower Duet by Léo Delibes. Years after BA stopped using it in their advertising; it was still played as passengers boarded their flights; no doubt to assuage the crippling discomfort of flying economy.
And that’s how powerfully music can improve consumer perception of a brand. Levi’s did this brilliantly in the 80s and 90s, sending half-forgotten old gems like Stand by Me and The Joker to No.1 and bringing them to a whole new audience.
I wish I could take the credit for a single one of those Levi’s ads but I can’t. However, if I ever run into Damon Albarn, I could mention the hill of money I must have made him by putting The Universal on a British Gas TV ad because they continued to use it for the next twenty years.
The Universal was one of the last 7” singles I bought before vinyl was supplanted by CD. I never liked CDs the way I love my 5,000 precious old singles, and during the lockdown, they’ve proved more precious than ever. Most evenings, I switch on my old DJ decks and let those original 45s provide a backdrop for some sentimental and misty-eyed reverie. I’ve never kept a diary – I’ve never had to – because those records bring back my hugely enjoyable childhood and adolescence in stunning HD clarity. That’s the power music has on consumer perception.
I find myself wandering through it, momentarily reunited with people, places and experiences that I thought I’d forgotten. It’s just not the same on Spotify. I need to hold the vinyl, hear its warmth and feel its humanity to conjure up that magical, transformative power. In these unusual times, those records have been my salvation.
Then as suddenly as Derren Brown snapping his fingers, I’m back in the room. My wife has just called my name.
Oh no! Domestic drudgery awaits.
But oh yes! Music does too.
Many thanks to Paul Burke for writing this blog – what a man. Keep your eyes peeled for more guest blogs, which will be featured on our blog over the coming weeks and months. Stay safe everyone and see you next time!