CHANGEMAKERS // Beats by Dre: A Marketing Melody
2008 saw Irvine and Dr Dre lament the disruption and destruction of the music industry as they knew it; “man, it’s one thing that people steal my music. It’s another thing to destroy the feeling of what I’ve worked on”.
The existing market dissonance became apparent; everyone was carrying their music library on their $200 iPod and yet playing it on earbuds worth $1. Before the legacy brands knew what was happening Beats by Dre was conceived; offering high-end headphones with street cred to boot. Orchestrated by a masterful marketing machine; Beats was propelled into the mainstream, riding a powerful wave fuelled by the unstoppable force of celebrity endorsement.
Irvine and Dre assembled an all-star celebrity line-up whose incessant paparazzi following gave Beats free publicity. Pharrell Williams, will.i.am, Serena Williams, Lady Gaga and Lebron James, to name a few, have been seen sporting their custom models. Dr Dre leveraged his fabulous and famous network of friends to capitalise on consumers’ desires to emulate their favourite idol. Celebrity endorsements have convinced millions that they are forging an even stronger bond with music moguls.
Marketed as though the brand was “Tupac, or U2 or Guns n Roses”, the resulting allure was so strong that four pairs of their ‘solo’ headphones sold for every minute of 2013.
Beats cultivated a hype-driven branding machine, projecting a seductive cult-like cool allure, and exploded onto the scene. The headphones are more of a status symbol than high-tech, with an iconic chunky design transforming a product category previously exclusive to audiophile. But finally, the notion of quality sound was brought to the mainstream.
The Beats’ tide of success drowned out any less-marketed competitors such as Bose or AudioTechnica, and still enjoys 70% of the market for premium headphones. The success of marrying popular culture with technology was further consolidated when Apple acquired Beats for a cool $3 billion in late 2014.
Are the $300 Beats headphones worth it?
Yes, yes they are. The millions of global brand subscribers prove that they think they’re worth it, to them Beats isn’t just a brand, it’s a lifestyle.
The story of Beats is just another example of the way marketing elevates traditional functional value, adding self-esteem and pinning a badge of cool and exclusivity to the wearer.
Beats, so hot right now. Beats.