I was at the Ikea in Atlanta (involuntarily) last week when I noticed something very very odd about the shopping experience. No, it wasn’t that the store doesn’t sell the furniture used in the café area in the store. Nor was it the Swedish Meatballs.
It was the music. Namely two songs back-to-back from my Generation X youth. Two songs that were about angst and anarchy in the 1990s. Songs that should not be played in a slightly somnambulant level in an Ikea in Atlanta.
Or should they? In a way, it was like Ikea knew I, or someone of my ilk, was going to shopping that day and what would put me and my ilk in a shopping mood? Songs we really dug from the 1990s. While I always knew why my parents cringed the first time they heard the Beatles selling sneakers in the 1980s, the reality of consumerism was staring me directly in the eye really for the first time.
Not that there hadn’t been moments. I swear I heard Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” in Muzak form in a K-Mart as a kid. I also will testify under oath that I remember hearing a Muzak version of Jethro Tull’s “Bungle in The Jungle” every Sunday when I was a teen selling pets at a Woolworth’s store. But what clientele wanted to hear that? It may be a reason both of those venerable institutions crumbled from the top of the merchandise hawking world.
Then there was the time three years ago where I heard Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear us Apart” over the intercom at a Piggly Wiggly in Lower Alabama the day before Thanksgiving. I am pretty sure that was the work of a disgruntled employee and not a subtle effort to get people to purchase pain relievers.
Now you can google dozens of articles about the effects of music on the shopping experience. Music websites, psychology magazines and business blogs all write about the results of notes and chords make people buy more or less. There is a cottage industry to it. I am not going to bore with you that.
So back to Ikea. The company knows its target audience must be Gen Xers. Why? Because the music was a homage of 1990s Top 40 hits. They have studied it. They played music to get a reaction. Did it work?
Yes and no. I bought nothing except for the Swedish Meatballs. My wife, though, came out with a desk, baby bibs, some office tools, and I really went into a brain coma after that. She likely heard nothing of the music I heard.