Q&A: How to find your retail brand’s audio identity

Retail brands need to pay attention to their audio identity. Here’s why, says Jon Savage, head of inBroadcasting at HaveYouHeard.

Most retail brands pay a great deal of attention to – and spend a great deal of money on – the visual appeal of the outlet, says Jon Savage, head of inBroadcasting at HaveYouHeard agency. From signage to shelving, displays to décor, staff uniforms to shopping bags, every detail is carefully considered and crafted to reflect the brand personality and ensure it resonates with the target demographic. But very few retail brands acknowledge, or even have, an audio identity, which puts them at a disadvantage in retail.

Jon Savage.
Why is an audio identity important?

An audio identity could be the difference between a retail brand failing or succeeding. The link between music and emotion, and the impact subliminally that listening to a piece of music can have on your mood and interaction with your environment and behaviour, is a powerful tool in the brand manager’s toolbox. Especially because this impact can just as easily be a negative one. Yet, for many retail brands,  playing ‘muzak’ is as much effort as they’ll make. Brands that do take their audio identity seriously realise greater business success than others, because the choice of music is an important part of the whole instore experience.

Which brands have you worked with on their audio identity?

inBroadcasting recently won the TFG pitch to provide digital retail radio for several of their retail brands, including Sportscene, Totalsports and Markham. Importantly, the strategy behind the playlists for these three stores is completely different. While Totalsports is a hard-core sports retail brand, Sportscene is more lifestyle. Put another way, if shoppers need shoes in which to play tennis, they go to Totalsports; if they want cool Nike sneakers, they go to Sportscene.

It’s a subtle difference, but one which required the team to truly understand the audience demographic. As a result, they researched and unpacked the demographics. Those findings eventually influenced the playlists for the two chains. Sportscene wants to attract a very savvy digital youth audience that is as obsessed with sport as Totalsports’ customers are. Playing a generic FM station instore just wouldn’t resonate with this audience; plus we needed to show that Sportscene was leading the pack, more current than the radio stations and clubs.

Tell us what your unique advantage is for retail brands?

So, we started playlisting new music before the major stations, and created opportunities for new emerging artists to debut on the instore audio space. The approach has been so successful that Sportscene now has its own recording studio to deliver on its audio identity. In addition to pinpointing who the audience was – what they liked, where they hung out, what they were trying to be seen as – we conducted tempo maps to understand what time they come into the store, what they were looking for and how they behaved at different times of the day. Two of the decisions taken because of the tempo maps, was to ‘up the tempo’ on Friday afternoons and include DJ mixes on the playlists over the weekends. This initiative won Sportscene a SA Hip-Hop Award for the coolest brand contribution to hip-hop!

The audience deep dive for Markham highlighted that its playlist needed to have a little more of a commercial wider appeal; still youth orientated but more mid-tempo, a little more dance, a little more pop-based, a little less cutting edge. With Markham, we have a much wider audience that isn’t at the tip of the spear for cutting-edge music, but more attuned to a range of music that is popular. To summarise, for Sportscene we look at the biggest trends on TikTok to inform the playlist. For Markham we look at trends in our audience demographic across Spotify and radio.

How can retail staff be involved?

Interestingly, the biggest insight from the Markham’s deep dive, was that the staff culture is critical to the brand. For themselves, the staff feel they belong to the Markham’s family; and for shoppers, the staff contribute positively to the overall shopping experience. As a result, inBroadcasting has included the staff in its strategy. The staff help us build the playlists by suggesting artists and songs; and, for the audio stings programmed into the playlist, we use staff members rather than professional voice-over artists. This has created a very ‘unifying’ radio strategy that truly reflects the shopping experience at Markham and enhances the ‘big family’ dynamic for its staff and their customers.


inBroadcasting has partnered with Retailing Africa to introduce playlists of the best music across the African continent, that millions of consumers are listening to right now. This is the music retailers should be playing in store to connect with their consumers.

Listen to the latest playlist on Spotify with inBroadcasting and

*More: The power of a song.

*More: The right music in store can boost sales.



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