The Undying Radio: Familiarity Breeds Content



Published on: 05/06/2013
Posted on: 05/06/2013
Tagged with:
Abstract:
Are you tired of hearing Taylor Swift's familiar "You Belong with Me" played over and over again? Or are you part of the cool set of music listeners, identifying the next great hit or indie band on the rise? Many music listeners, especially the younger generations, want to perceive themselves as listening to cool music. But new research by SMU Cox Marketing Professor Morgan Ward and co-authors says otherwise when it comes to real choices. The tension between the novel and the familiar leads to interesting insights for marketers. The research offers lessons about how actual behavior trumps media portrayals of consumers' perennial desire for the novel.

Are you tired of hearing Taylor Swift's familiar "You Belong with Me" played over and over again? Or are you part of the cool set of music listeners, identifying the next great hit or indie band on the rise? Many music listeners, especially the younger generations, want to perceive themselves as listening to cool music. But new research by SMU Cox Marketing Professor Morgan Ward and co-authors says otherwise when it comes to real choices. In the music arena, consumers tend to "believe" they prefer newer songs but their actual choices are driven by familiarity.

Many have this intuition that people are driven toward novelty, says Ward. "We believe we want to listen to new music, or anything that is novel, but when we observe what people actually choose, they tend to choose what is familiar." There is a persistent tension in music choice between the opposing forces of the known and familiar versus the novel and new, write the authors. People do exhibit both tendencies in their consumption choices. But there is little research examining which force will dominate.

The research indicates that our behavior trumps what the media portrays. Ward explains, "In life we have many day-to-day decisions and responsibilities. We are sorting through so much information; and at the end of the day, we are "cognitive misers." That is, we do not want to spend so much time on making choices, which is very depleting. Research backs this up. Choosing something familiar is easy to process and comfortable. The desire to not expend so much energy on choices is what I believe drives these findings."

Play on
The music industry is over $30 billion dollars strong. Web radio now exceeds 57 million consumers each week. Traditional radio formats continue to endure, despite cries that radio is dead. According to Radio Advertising Bureau, in 2011 radio reached nearly 95% of the U.S. population, and U.S. radio advertising netted $17.4 billion in revenues. The authors suggest offering and/or emphasizing songs consumers want is good marketing strategy, as is choosing to advertise in venues that play preferred music.  

"People were under the impression that radio was no longer relevant," notes Ward. "Radio is very relevant. We now have new forms of music on popular websites like Pandora and Spotify, where these brands are already maximizing insights such as ours. They present the consumer with music they already like but it is presented in new ways that allow for an easy transition. These sites are successful because they are using the idea of familiarity."

Across four studies, findings indicate that familiarity is a stronger predictor of music choice than other prevalent measures such as liking and satiation. Consumers pick music that they are familiar with even when they believe they would prefer less familiar music. This research is a first to quantify the effect of familiarity versus other forces (including liking) on consumer choice and to determine the power of these variables on actual market behavior. The authors note that an extensive body of psychology literature "does not provide much actionable managerial guidance for marketers as to which stimulus a consumer will actually choose in a particular product category."

The authors' second test shows that people are likely to choose music based on familiarity, even when they will have to actually listen to the music versus an intent. In fact, familiarity predicts choice above and beyond liking, and it has a stronger direct effect on choice. "Liking" is a commonly used variable in marketing research. Especially in the music domain, perceived coolness is a factor. Ward mentions, "We measure this by having respondents make choices individually; if they had their peers observing their choices, they might have chosen differently, trying to make cool choices in front of their peers."

A heavy load?
Also factored into the study is one's stimulation levels and cognitive load. For example, the authors predict and prove that when a person is engaged in an activity requiring more stimulation, they prefer more familiar music. Imagine someone jogging or driving in rush-hour traffic, two tasks which already consume some of the listener's bandwidth. The opposite is also true: in a less stimulating environment, the novel can be better handled. Blaring some new tune while outdoors playing Frisbee with your black Lab is perfectly doable.  One's "cognitive load" is particularly relevant to music choice because listening to music often involves other activities such as driving, exercising or working with "audio wallpaper" playing softly in the background.

A general finding is that consumers do not want to be over-stimulated, says Ward. Optimal stimulation has been researched since the 1980s. "People typically operate at a low level of desire for stimulation in their everyday surroundings or they seek it at certain times. There are people who like jumping out of airplanes and scaling cliffs in Nepal, but this is more of a chronic state of being versus a consumption choice."
                                                                               
Familiarity however is a major driver of actual music choice and market share, according to results. They note that emphasis on novelty in the music domain, by consumers and people protesting the current state of the music business, is misplaced. While consumers indicate that they want more novelty, in fact their choices suggest that they do not.

Impact on the playlist
When testing consumers about a particular music choice or a particular playlist, marketers would do well to bypass consumers’ notions of what they want, and instead ask how familiar consumers are with the music, the research indicates. Familiarity is as powerful, and sometimes more powerful, than any other measure of music preference in the studies. "Satiation measures," how tired of a song one is, at least for predicting reduced preference for music, is counterproductive.

For music outlets with playlists, findings suggest the best strategy is to concentrate on familiar songs, even if consumers say they want more novelty. When a new song is introduced, the authors suggest it should be played often and be offered to consumers through promotions. For music platforms allowing users to create a playlist, such as iTunes, marketers should heavily promote and make familiar music, easy to find for purchase, and should not emphasize unfamiliar music. The researchers predict the success of Apps such as Spotify and Pandora, which offer newly released music that has many familiar elements, such as familiar artists, styles, and melodies.

The authors believe that this familiarity story would play a powerful role in other artistic categories other than music, such as the entertainment, food and the visual arts. Many popular movies include familiar actors and plots, and same goes for popular restaurants seeming to serve essentially the same food. The researchers point to people not needing stimulation in these types of product categories, as in music.

The Eagles, Rolling Stones, Cold Play and Taylor Swift may yet live on another century.

"The Same Old Song: The Power of Familiarity in Music Choice" by Marketing Professor Morgan Ward, Cox School of Business at SMU, Joseph Goodman of Washington University, and Julie Irwin of University of Texas, Austin is under review.
 
Written by Jennifer Warren.

Resource Tags
Bruce Bullock SMU Cox Maguire Energy Institute Mickey Quinones Mike Davis Zannie Voss Bud Weinstein Richard Briesch Edward Fox Robert Dudley SMU Cox School of Business Bill F Maxwell W Michael Cox Frank Lloyd Albert W Niemi Uskla Igaly Mel Fugate Christine Cook Cary Maguire Brian Bruce Dan Howard WMichael Cox SMU Cox Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship Scott MacDonald Robert Puelz Carl Dorvil Marci Armstrong Dean Niemi Michael Cox hina union of concerned scientists green infrastructure sustainability CRM Jacquelyn Thomas Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science darius miller sec 12g302(b) foreign regulation pink sheets yankee bondglobal bond investment apple glenn voss google zannie giraud voss communal sharing idiosyncratic communities Walter Williams O'Neil Center ONeil Center peak theory fuel energy Maguire Institute James Smith Marketing Relationship Social Marketing information overload China sustainability green infrastructure S Scott MacDonald Southern Methodist University's business school Albert Niemi The O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom Lynda Oliver Cox Executive Education Maguire Energy Institute Cox School of Business (Cox Full-Time MBA Profile Maria Minniti Charles Dannis Dallas MBA Best MBA Top 25 SMU SMU Cox MBA Top-ranked MBA Dallas Texas best Business BusinessWeek Cox School of Business Jerry White entrepreneurs levesque branding ward jonah berger avatar social presence telepresence second life virtual worlds inance hedge funds best mba derivatives executive compensation swami kalpathy Giving EMBA Second Century GLP Brazil Amit Basu Richard Alm Entrpreneurship health care yunwei gai Asia MBA Ernst&Young Management Briefing Series Richard Templeton Intrapreneurship Finance Economics Collins Education Center NHCC CEDP HYI workshop Bud Weinstein Steve Denson Albert W Niemi Jr W Michael Cox and Richard Alm found Alan Bromberg NHCC Executive Education Sarbanes-Oxley SOX Reg FD Management SMU Cox MBA in Dallas Real Estate William Maxwell New York Times Albert McLelland Marty Flanagan brand commitment MA-MBA Bernard Weinstein Ed Easterling Lewis Wang Luke Longhofer Robert Lawson Michael Hinson BBA Global Leadership Program Negotiations Kitt Investing and Trading Center Ethics Free Market O'Neil PMBA Ed Cox Edwin L Cox Allen Gwinn SMU MBA Ed Fox Cox in the News David Lei Banking Quinones Rasberry Entrepreneurship Caruth Albert Niemi ITOM Social Media FTMBA MSA MSF Morgan Ward Cox Relay Challenge Dr Pepper Management and Organizations BLC Communications MAMBA Al Niemi Risk Management Insurance Chuck Dannis Master Negotiations Statistics Kitt Center Hayek Keynes Dean Albert Niemi false memories Caruth Institute Mike Lysko Robin Pinkley Don Vanderwalle Hemang Desai Bud Weinstein, Bruce Bullock Mike Davis, Bud Weinstein Southern Methodist Business Harvey Rosenblum Robert Rasberry Cox School of Busines Wayne Shaw Judy Foxman Immigration Paula Strasser W Michael Cox, Richard Alm Johan Sulaeman Julie Lynch Tom Tan Southern Methodist Don Shelly Business SMU