Bach’s ‘reassuring’ music makes us splash our cash, study finds

29 June 2021, 12:42

Bach’s ‘reassuring’ music has potential to get us spending more
Bach’s ‘reassuring’ music has potential to get us spending more. Picture: Getty / FaceApp / Emojipedia

By Rosie Pentreath

A safe pair of Baroque hands helps us feel reassured when it comes to parting with our cash.

A US study has revealed the link between beautiful Baroque music and the temptation to increase our spending.

An analysis of music used in recent commercials by professor Peter Kupfer shows that music by J.S. Bach is favoured over other soundtracks for its reassuring quality.

As well as Bach seeming to be overwhelmingly picked for engendering consumer trust in brands, it seems certain pieces, including the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and the Prelude in C Major from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, were pieces advertisers opted for again and again.

“In the case of recent television commercials, Bach has more or less taken on a single function: reassurance,” professor Peter Kupfer says. “It is no coincidence that most companies that use Bach in their commercials offer financial or insurance services (including American Express, MetLife, and Allstate), thus requiring a message of trust.”

Read more: Nina Simone plays a stunning Bach-style fugue in the middle of one of her classic songs

The 15 most famous tunes in classical music

For his paper Good Hands: the Music of JS Bach in Television Commercials, Kupfer made a note every time an advert came on that drew on the Baroque genius’s melodious talents. And he noticed it wasn’t just finance products that called for Bach’s reassuring tunes.

Commercials for, Healthy Choice Café Steamers, and Papa Murphy’s Pizza have all used Bach’s music too.

Read more: The 15 most famous tunes in classical music

Bach composed towering masterpieces in nearly every major Baroque genre – from keyboard works, sonatas, concertos and suites, to cantatas, organ and large-scale choral works. His music is sublimely beautiful but built on a safe logic, making it incredibly human – and incredibly trustworthy, it would seem.

Staying with classical music, but looking at other composers, Kupfer’s theory translates back over the pond where here in the UK we see legacy brands using classical music in their adverts. Think about British Airways’ iconic use of DelibesFlower Duet over the years, and Hovis’s commitment to Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ for its delicious bread. Both brands have engendered trust with millions.

Click here to listen to our Essential Classical playlist on Global Player, the official Classic FM app.