Remember on American Idol when Simon Cowell used to chide singers for being “self indulgent”?  I think he meant that they were more focused on hearing themselves sing than in performing for the audience.  Beats By Dre, the hot headphone company, might be suffering from a similar egotistical malady.


To be fair, BBD has every reason to be on high.  They were just bought by Apple and have one of the hottest brands around.  But, sometimes, a sort of “irrational exuberance” can be the first sign of a brand’s downfall and Apple/BBD brass should be mindful of this.


As someone who’s been around the brand block a few times my antenna is fairly attuned to the saccharine infused puffery that many marketers and creatives use.  I found recent comments from Beats By Dre EVP Marketing, Omar Johnson, to be of the particularly high octane variety.  The article talks about “fearlessness” being one of the core pillars of the brand and quotes him saying,


“Truth is the foundation of our brand – from all we do across sports, headphones and music – it is all based on truth. The difference between us and other brands is we have a relentless passion to tell truth even if unsavoury or uncomfortable for people who don’t want to hear it – this brand lives it – we want to be known for being fearless”.

That may sound nice.  It may be aspirational.  It may be what BBD thinks their consumers want to hear, but everyone knows its BS, right?   What does that have to do with headphones?  Sure, some of their current advertising features gritty scenes - but have you noticed that the only people ever wearing BBD are the mega-rich celebrities who have largely left those venues behind?  What “truth”, exactly, should we surmise from this?  


We can love the brand.  We can love the product.  We can love the advertising.  We can even love their business acumen.  But “fearlessness” and “truth”? Really?

BBD creates popular headphones, and their explosive growth is a function of brilliant marketing strategy and flawless execution.   Execs can talk about “truth” all they want, but in the end, they know they’ve created a brand that is just plain cooler than anyone elses.  Their product placement strategy has been brilliant.  They created some great advertising.  They are installing themselves as a hot fixture with youth everywhere.  Where, exactly, does “truth” fit in.  Is it somewhere in the intrinsics of the product experience?  Perhaps in the pumped up base?  Is it in the product placement strategy that has the “b” on some of biggest celebs around?  Where, exactly?


In this day and age, “truth” certainly seems in short supply.  But as that famous 20th century American philosopher Chuck D said, “don’t believe the hype”.  BBD, keep doing what you’re doing.  Leverage the newfound design virtuosity and brand panache of your parent.  Keep getting the product on the right people, and you’ll be fine.  Just don’t drink too much of your own “Kool-Aid”.  The sense of indigestion of that kind of narcissism has a funny way of seeping into your brand and turning off consumers.  That kind of self indulgence is actually self destructive.


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Tags: beats, beatsbydre, brand, marketing, positioning, truth


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