Christmas is approaching – that magical time of year when music rings out in towns and cities across the world. Music and sound have long-been key ingredients of the festive period, from carol singing and well-loved Christmas hits returning to the charts, to the festive music that plays out in shops, on radio stations, and on television screens up and down the country.

This, however, has been a year like no other. The pandemic has turned the world on its head, impacting our senses in ways never seen before, from acrylic screens at dinner and computer screens for meetings, to the total ban on live theatre, music, sports, and parties.

For now, physical closeness, touch, and live experiences are out. But one constant that remains is music, which continues to bring color, culture, and comfort to our lives. While millions of people have felt the harsh effects of isolation, we have seen the incredible power of music to calm, unite, and connect us, even when we cannot be together.

As we look ahead to Christmas and the question marks around whether families will be able to celebrate together, emotions will be running on steroids. The impact that music and sound are likely to have on our senses will arguably be greater this year than ever before. Brands must take note, and put sound at the center of their architecture.

Battle of the brands

Over the last few weeks, we have seen the highly-anticipated Christmas adverts landing on our screens. As is the case each year, music has played a pivotal role in the production of many of these campaigns, with brands opting for a myriad of different approaches while in the most part at least acknowledging the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

Let’s not forget the severe impact on retailers by not one but two national lockdowns in the UK this year. The importance of Christmas as a key trading period is therefore likely to be even greater as brands compete for the hearts and wallets of consumers. And in the creation of the Christmas campaigns, there is no better way to connect on an emotional level than through the medium of sound.

A number of UK retailers stand out as having clearly recognized the power of music to reflect their brand proposition and connect with their audience, investing heavily in the sound of their Christmas campaign. Argos, Amazon, and John Lewis all spring to mind, with the latter taking a welcome break from its traditional mold by commissioning an original song by BBC Music’s Sound of 2020 winner, Celeste.

Other brands have missed the mark, however, evidently adding music as an afterthought. Lego, a brand that is hugely synonymous with Christmas, and a staple on children’s Christmas lists across the nation, has, in my opinion, pitched it all wrong with extremely mixed messaging around the patronizing tagline Rebuild the World.

This year, the festive battle of the brands has been a game of two halves, in which the winners have hit the gold standard when it comes to music production.

The year of sound

With holidays canceled since March and the everyday monotony of lockdown taking its toll, never have consumers been more in need of a dose of escapism, whether it’s the sound of waves lapping at the shoreline or well-loved tunes to lift up their mood.

Music can be a warm hug, a happy family memory, a wild night out with friends, a gentle encouragement to start the day, or a calming note in the evening.

And data shows that we have capitalized on the powers of listening on a massive scale.  Since the start of the pandemic, radio and podcast listeners have soared, while an estimated 50 percent of all searches being done via voice.

The year 2020 has undoubtedly been the year of sound. And as we gear up for Christmas – no matter how it will play out this year – brands must take note and consider how music and sound can help them connect with consumers.

Cover image source: cottonbro