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Food and music: encouraging a gut reaction

Jan 18, 2019
In modern culture, food and music play an integral part in our social relationships – and choosing not to join in the merriment of consumption is almost as frowned-upon as un-ironically delivering the statement ‘I don’t really like music.’

As a form of creative expression, food can tell a story just as vividly as music and lyrics do, and with the right soundtrack, a good meal can become excellent. Perhaps due to the similar emotional response they evoke, the two have always been intertwined – from culinary references in the operas of Mozart, Verdi and co., to chef turned rapper, Action Bronson, who trades brags about watches and women for ‘seasonal vegetables lookin’ exceptional,’ and exposes viewers to global fine dining in his web series F*** That’s Delicious.

Food and Music: encouraging a gut reaction

We get swept up in our favourite songs the same way our mouth starts to water at the very thought of our favourite dish, so it makes sense that combining the two increases customer enjoyment on a gut level. It’s a connection many businesses have clocked onto too, using collaborations with music streaming giant Spotify to foster attachment with their audiences. 

For the UK-based online content publisher MOB kitchen, the affinity between cooking and music is closely aligned to their success. Teaming up with bands such as Hidden Charms, Joy Room and Palace to provide a sonic backdrop for their 1-minute recipe videos, they tap into the idea that the right playlist can be the difference between cooking being a chore and something truly enjoyable. To inspire novice chefs, they include Spotify codes for song suggestions in their cookbook and share playlists that inject a level of creative energy through their social channels, getting the audience excited about the task at hand.  Not only that, but music is a proven trigger for getting the creative juices flowing, enhancing perception of flavour and potentially inspiring beginners to add additional flourishes of their own instead of blindly following a recipe.

Food and Music

Similarly in the US, Energy BBDO worked with Kerrygold to develop a campaign that sees top influencers in the culinary world develop recipes using the brands’ range of dairy products – and then matching the mood of the dish to music. Encouraging you to make a meal that sounds as good as it tastes, the recipes were paired with Spotify playlists to soundtrack cooking, including selections that enhance chopping rhythm or set the tone for a date-night dish. Embracing the strapline ‘make it a moment with music, make it richer with Kerrygold,’ the driving notion is that by introducing music in the kitchen, you can soothe your soul while you feed it.

From a different position, links between food and music have been further strengthened with the culinary elevation of on-site cuisine at music festivals – and smaller events can now appeal to larger audiences by offering a sensory tour de force. Whereas previously music-loving foodies would have to make do with undercooked falafel or suspect noodles, today they can enjoy anything from vegan junk food to banquets from Michelin starred chefs. Meanwhile, in the fine-dining world, food and music pairing menus could be the next big thing – as pioneered by Heston Blumenthal. In his typically tongue-in-cheek fashion, the seafood dish at his restaurant is served to customers while an ambient soundtrack of crashing waves plays. 

The research behind all this is fairly new, but aside from melody and sound being a powerful memory trigger, studies show that multisensory dining can influence the way we perceive tastes, flavours and textures. It’s possible that by playing with pitch and tempo, we can take control of customers actions and even influence buying decisions.

With more research on the close connection between these two senses being completed every day, it’s definitively an important factor to be considered in this multi-sensory world of digital advertising.