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Turn It Up! Can Noise Help Creativity?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Many of us know those people who cannot think or write without having some kind of music blasting through their headphones. We remember at a former agency, the line of creatives was constantly plugged in to their MP3 players and iPods, and were totally unnerved when they forgot to charge them.

In school, many may remember a paper they had to write and how they got the music flowing to help concentration and motivation to get the paper done. Yes, Method Man and Tupac alone got us through that Global Studies class our freshman year.*

But does music, or background noise for that matter, help us be more creative? According to a new study being published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the team of scientists would argue yes.

The qualitative study involved subjects coming into environments of low-, moderate-, and high-noise environments. The scientists then asked the subjects to come up with new types of products or uncommon uses for certain subjects. According to the team, the subjects were most creative and innovative when in an environment with moderate background noise. Note that the article did not release what noise level "moderate" is, so further reading would be required to find their definition.

Also in the study, the scientists found that consumers were more likely to choose more innovative products over the traditional, "tried-and-true" product with the same level of background noise.

How can this study help advertisers and marketers? Although this study seems more fluffy than usual, it does provide a new "trial and error" activity. For example, let's say your client is promoting a new product and part of the campaign demands in-store promotions in 20 locations. The campaign can test the moderate background noise in several different markets, or phase in the noise in different locations throughout a certain time period, and at the end, see how the noise affected the receptiveness of the product. This study can help internally, too. If your creative team seems to be in a jam, try three different brainstorms or strategy sessions with three different noise levels. At the end, compare the ideas and tactics and see which ones were more creative.

Sometimes simple answers like this study could be the one you're searching for.

*If you've written a paper or essay while listening to "California Love," then you know what we're talking about.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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