Recently, we were having a bottle of bubbly in Champagne when I was asked to act as a DJ and pick some music to set up an ambience for our evening. I put on some old big band jazz and the oldest member of our party sighed: "Ah, every time Frank Sinatra sings, I feel like drinking and raising toasts."
Yes, music does indeed evoke strong emotions, release pheromones and make us joyous, but above all else, it puts us in a certain mood, whether we like it or not. The right kind of music can improve athletic performance, the ability to learn and the capacity for work. Even so, music is utilised very little in companies.
I can't count the number of times I've dined in a world-class restaurant where no thought has gone into audio design; the experience has been fine-tuned for all the other senses except one.
The same goes for atmosphere. Creating an atmosphere – through music as well as other means – is too often overlooked. The product may be in order and the backdrop and content technically all right, but if there is no proper atmosphere or it feels wrong, the whole thing loses its footing.
Why is Slush able to get together such an incredibly diverse group of people from the top of the business world in the chilly November of Helsinki?
Why did the Napue gin by Kyrö Distillery Company become the new, unofficial national drink of Finland?
Why was the Finnish IT company Futurice selected the best workplace in Europe twice in a row?
These are hardly coincidences as all of the aforementioned operators have invested in their atmosphere considerably more than their peers. The best companies have understood that the right atmosphere not only makes people have a good time and feel great but to come back, commit and tell their friends about it.
What is even more important (and even more underutilised) is understanding the significance of atmosphere in the planning of areas and cities. Investing in the atmosphere of a city not only creates well-being for the residents but also attracts top skills; the best employers of their industry seek employers with the right atmosphere.
Therefore, every city and company reaching for the top should place atmosphere much higher on their list of priorities.
Why is this not commonplace yet? Well, unfortunately, building an atmosphere rarely falls in the core expertise of companies or the public sector.
That is why they should consult the experts of creating an atmosphere.
Timo Santala is a conceptual designer, creative consultant and creator of urban culture. He is the Executive Director of We Love Helsinki and one of the founding members of the Restaurant Day and has worked as the head of the food culture strategy of Helsinki.