November 28, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson

No matter where home is for the holidays, there are sights, sounds, and scents that can take you there immediately. I pretend not to be the sentimental sort, but cue up a little Perry Como and give me the scent of pine with some twinkling lights in the background, and I’m suddenly in my Hallmark movie happy place. 

Shazam Retail_500Holiday tastes are very, very specific. And yet there are some underlying universals that would make even the most frenzied holiday traveler stop and smile.

Given these advanced and yet simple parameters of emotional engagement, of course I’m fascinated with the art and science of perfect holiday atmosphere cultivation. How can retailers, restaurants, ski chalets, rustic mountain inns, and even beachside resorts find a way to bring a little bit of sleigh-bell excitement to their unique audience? Well, with the magic of sound, video, scent, and social. 

Having heard my first holiday music in stores right after Halloween, like so many others across the country, I wanted to find out just how early and arduously business music providers begin to make sure we all enjoy in-store sensations akin to sipping hot cocoa while snowflakes twinkle on the window panes.

Turns out, winter vacation plans are made right around the time summer vacation begins. “There’s such a long runway on the retail side, we really have to start thinking about it as early as June and July,” said Danny Turner, Global Senior Vice President of Creative Programming with Mood Media. As odd as it is to be planning holiday music around that time, it’s critically important for Mood to start the careful concoctions of holiday spirit early enough to get the offerings to clients by September. 

Mood offered more than 30 music programs, with half of them being 100-percent holiday content. Nineteen are Mood’s own in-house blends of its music catalog with some holiday music infusion. Those are as wide-ranging as the “Nashville USA Holiday Mix” for country fans, versus the “Hi-NRG Holiday Blend” for pop and dance music fans. 

I’ll tell you the truth: If I were in a space where esoteric electronic music was playing, and suddenly there was a remixed version of Perry Como’s There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” I’d be into it. 

Mood Generic Shazam Screen_previewThat would come as no surprise to Turner, who is well-versed in balancing the love/hate relationship with holiday music. “For every person who says, ‘If I hear this song one more time, I’m going to go crazy,’ you have a person who says, ‘I love that song,’” he said. “That actually applies to all music. But holiday music takes it even a step further, because it’s so more emotionally powerful. I don’t know another music type that is more evocative than holiday music.”

To help ensure a positive association with the holiday music selection, it might be a good idea to rely on the other senses for good vibes. Add some good visuals on the ol’ digital signage setup, make it feel more like a cozy hearth at home. Then, if you’re really on it, try out some curated scents for the space. Mood Media also offers several exclusive holiday fragrances, including pine, peppermint, cinnamon, and cranberries.

As any observant member of the zeitgeist might know, scents are as trendy as music or video. Seen a lot of bergamot, black pepper, and leather in your scented candle offerings lately? Yeah, that’s the hip aroma range right now. Knowing that, I wondered what scent notes Mood customers were seeking this year. Turns out more white and green teas are being added to holiday floral blends, and the company is “seeing more use of citrus beyond ‘orange,’ including grapefruit and bergamot, which can add a little style and sophistication.” (I knew it! Bergamot!)

The combinations of sound, sight and scent are all very subtle, and taste trends evolve over the course of a year, so those summertime holiday calibrations for the perfect holiday combination of elements are ever more important, explained Jaime Bettencourt, Senior Vice President of Business Development and Account Management with Mood Media. “Retailers that are winning are creating the experience on so many levels,” she noted. “Our clients in retail are having to be more immersive to create that ‘Want to go’ versus ‘Have to go’ feeling with shopping.”

Bettencourt mentioned another big word in experience design right now: “Personalization.” Forward-thinking Mood clients are getting into the idea of the individual experience, adding interactive options via a partnership with Shazam. Knowing how many shoppers and diners Shazam music tracks while they’re out in the world, Mood is helping the app to deliver branded messages when someone tags a track in their location. So, when you just have to figure out who did that awesome Perry Como remix, you can also find out about a special on scented candles. 

Even better, a feature can be added for customers to influence the music selection in a space. They can vote up songs in the playlist. So, if you hear Perry Como, you can guess I’m in the store.

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for almost 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for InfoComm Center Stage. Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years, and has written for numerous industry publications and the InfoComm Daily. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles, which provides a professional outlet for her obsession with MotoGP racing.