Like so many of Austin’s successful tech companies, Mood Media is at its best when you don’t even realize it’s there in the background.
But Mood Media is a bit easier to relate to than, say, a software company analyzing sales data for a retailer. Mood’s products are geared toward your senses — the music you hear in a store, the signage, perhaps a scent and even a few devices with tailored content.
The company’s role is to make in-store experiences enjoyable and memorable.
I recently met up with Trey Courtney at the company’s headquarters near West 6th Street and MoPac to learn more about Mood, how it designs interactive customer experiences for brick and mortar and how it will change with new tech like VR and AI.
Courtney can’t disclose many of Mood Media’s clients because, usually, clients want their in-store experience to feel like part of the brand. But, there are a few you might recognize.
Yeti is one — Mood co-designed and coordinated its in-store experience for its flagship store on Congress Avenue, including music, visuals and scents tailored to their adventurous fans. Montblanc, the luxury goods maker, is another. As is the fashion company Primark. Otherwise, Mood’s clients include leading auto manufacturers, cell phone stores and a lot of restaurants and retail stores.
Mood Media, once a public company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, was taken private in June this year by Apollo Global Management. It is mostly unmatched in its niche industry. It works with Fortune 500 retailers, hotels and restaurants globally and has offices around the world.
So, there’s a very good chance you’ve experienced some form of their work.
Generally, Courtney said retailers aren’t early-adopters of new technologies — often because the price is too high or they’re slow to commit when a big roll out for a store like Target could take nine months to fully test, retool and launch.
“The consumer is fickle and tends to move faster,” he said.
Courtney is a mentor at Capital Factory, and his roots trace back to Mood Media’s acquisition of Muzak in 2011 for $345 million. He’s a technologist at heart who came up learning across the tech stack. And he’s an advocate of proper licensing on music — both to prevent lawsuits against clients and to ensure the musician (or at least the music industry) is credited.
But one of Mood Media’s offerings is decidedly different. That’s scent, which Courtney said gets pretty sophisticated as retailers try to dial in a custom and memorable smell that sinks in with consumers.
“It’s not the biggest part of our business, but it’s a crucial part of our business,” Courtney told me in a conference room filled with high end speakers that are being readied to ship to the company’s new headquarters. “It helps make an emotional connection — not just a cerebral connection.”
The scents come from a partner business, ScentAir, in Charlotte. But Mood has to coordinate the right fit and implement it.
“It’s very much a creative process, not different than music or visual,” he said.
Courtney sees the next wave of tech coming mostly from AI applications that make sense out of big data collected in stores — how does a certain type of music impact sales and how does that correlate to weather or other events that may impact sales.
“The winners and the losers will get separated very quickly,” he said.