In the age of targeted, direct-to-consumer digital advertising, musical instrument retailer Guitar Center is going old-school to market its products. An independent study commissioned by the Westlake Village company investigated the behaviors and screen use of adolescents ages 7 to 17 who take music lessons. It found that after a year of lessons, 85 percent of parents polled saw an improvement in their child’s ability to keep working until they finish a task. Additionally, 71 percent of parents said their child became better at self-monitoring their screen time because they understand it allows them to prioritize other activities. The study is a clever way to market childhood musicianship to parents — after all, they’re the ones paying for instruments and music lessons, and they’re certainly more likely to do so if they see it as a meaningful investment in their child’s future. “Parents make decisions regarding their kids’ extracurricular activities, and we know that limiting kids’ screen time is essential to them. So, we set out to understand and highlight the benefits of music lessons that current music-focused parents are seeing among their kids,” Donny Gruendler, Guitar Center’s vice president of music education, told the Business Journal via email. Endrea Kosven, chief executive of marketing agency EDK & Co. in Granada Hills, said that while any company can get its name in front of its target market, long-trusted methods like independent studies lend credibility to Guitar Center’s campaign. “Commissioning an independent study to substantiate information about the value of music lessons on a child’s cognitive development is a smart way to rise above the noise – no pun intended – of the flood of advertisements and promotions to parents,” she said in an email. Even so, Lindsey Carnett, chief executive of Camarillo agency Marketing Maven, said the results are bound to be a bit skewed — with commissioned studies, marketers reverse-engineer their questions based on whatever findings they anticipate would encourage the purchase of their products. “What do you want the headlines to be? Those are the questions you ask in the study and hopefully the data will come back positive.” For the study to result in increased sales and lesson enrollment, she said, “it’s all about what other channels they market (the study’s results) through. Every single one of those callouts could be a social media post. If they put dollars behind those and boost them and target the right people, it’s music to parents’ ears.” Lorrie Thomas Ross, founder of Atlanta-based digital marketing firm Web Marketing Therapy, said the study format allows Guitar Center to market a “why,” rather than a “what.” “Marketing with an educational focus is an ethical and effective way to brand, build and boost business,” she said in an email. The study was written by Brian Wesolowski from the University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music and Stefanie Wind of the University of Alabama College of Education.