Although music is widely used as a sensory marketing tool and incorporated in multisensory consumer–computer interactions, the role of timbre in marketing has not been extensively discussed. This study used five experiments which demonstrate that compared with violin/flute timbres, the piano timbre fits listeners’ prevention focus. This is because the piano timbre is familiar to individuals and induces feelings of security congruent with the listener's prevention orientation. When exposed to a piano (vs. violin/flute) timbre as background music in an advertisement, consumers evaluate both the advertisement and the product/service more positively when they are prevention (vs. promotion) focused or when the advertisement message is framed in a preventive (vs. promotional) way. However, the timbre's effect exists only when consumers’ cognitive load is low. This research contributes to sensory marketing in theory and practice and suggests that marketing managers should avoid using obsessive sensory stimuli in virtual and augmented reality.
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