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Taste as good as it sounds

May 25, 2018

The sheer impact of sound on consumer behaviour is only gaining more recognition, as brands focus on utilizing audio to build their image and improve the user experience. The latest industry to experiment with audio is the food sector, with restaurants and eateries all over the world cleverly choosing specific sounds to accompany certain dishes – resulting in a more complete taste experience for their customer. Read on as we explore how music is making its way on to the menu.

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So how do we know sound can be so influential? In 2001, researchers showed two shapes – one spikey, one with round edges – to American college students and Tamil speakers in India. The researchers asked the groups which shape was named 'kiki' and which one was named 'bouba'. Both groups said the rounder shape was 'bouba' and the spikier one was 'kiki' – clearly illustrating that the sound of the words when said aloud influenced the groups on what type of image they related to. This is a prime example of how sound clearly affects what people think, and how they view the world.

When it comes to food, sound becomes even more instrumental – as Corrigan Corp demonstrated as far back as the 1970s. They played natural sounds like rainstorms before misting their fresh produce, and these sounds made their customers believe the food was even fresher than it was. But sound doesn't just affect the way someone views food – it can also influence how they taste it. In 2016, the team behind the 'Chivas Regal Ultis Sensory Tasting Experience' used sensory science to match a unique soundscape to each of the malts in Ultis. As each malt was tasted, the individual sounds were listened to. Then, when Ultis as a whole was sipped, all the sounds played together – resulting in the complete sensory experience.

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It's not just food and drinks brands or stores either – restaurants all over the world are increasingly using music as part of their dining experience too. At Vespertine, a renowned restaurant in Los Angeles, Head Chef Jordan Kahn has expertly deployed music from experimental rock band, This Will Destroy You, in different parts of the restaurant. "Each piece has been composed as an aural sensory element of the subject's journey," Kahn says. And playing with the relationship between food and music is clearly working for him, as his restaurant has been met by rave reviews since it opened last July. In addition to enhancing the taste of the food, many fast food chains have also used sound to influence customer's behaviour. The focus of fast food isn't necessarily the exquisite taste, so instead of trying to amplify flavours, Subway plays tracks with higher beats per minute to encourage customers to hurry along the line as they wait.

Practices like these seen from restaurants and food chains is only set to gain even more momentum across other industries too. Memories make music, and music makes memories. Memorability is what every brand wants to, and audio is the key to achieving this.