Skip to main content

Beats By Dre: What's The Strategy? (Identity or Ingredient)




"Beats by Dre" is a headphone brand. Wear the headphones and it says something about who you are: cool, you live for the music, you have discerning taste.

Wait, I forgot. You "become" Dr. Dre, just by buying them. The quintessential identity brand.

Photo of Dr. Dre performing via Wikipedia

Yes, except that Beats may actually be selling "bass-delivery systems" - an ingredient, according to Jesse Dorris. As he puts it, writing for Slate:

"He’s conquered the headphones market, but Dr. Dre isn’t selling great sound. He’s not even selling celebrity. He’s selling the concept of 'bass.'"

--and this ingredient has a very particular cultural symbolism--

"Bass has signified both sex and rebellion at least since Duke Ellington got the ladies on the floor in 1920s."

This isn't an abstract argument. The discipline of brand is essentially reverse-engineering others' success and failure so that others may repeat it and earn money.

And in a crowded market where I can buy a working pair of headphones for $1, Dre built a headphone business in which revenue shot skyward from $200 million to $1 billion within two years.

Is Beats By Dre really an ingredient brand, though? One might more easily be able to believe that people shell out $200-300 a pair because he's a celebrity.

Check out NiceKicks.com's "Celebrity Sneaker Stalker," below. Obviously the appeal of buying such expensive shoes is largely the feeling of being just like the celebrities wearing them. It is not the "superior" ingredients that go into making them - though they may actually be better.


Indeed, other companies, most notably Bose, have developed equity around sound delivery branding.

But Dorris anticipates this objection. As he notes, an expert review of headphones for the popular productivity site Lifehacker.com misses the point: These headphones make an asset out of something that a subject matter expert dismisses as unworthy.

"Beats’ raison d’etre is to simply blow the lids off the listener."

At the end of the day, it's not clear that companies have to choose between offering identity or ingredient branding. Ideally, they give the customer both. The key point is to know which thing you are emphasizing, when, and in what proportion.

For example, Splenda does not rely on a celebrity and it is not particularly healthy. So - although it could position itself primarily as an ingredient brand - it leans toward positioning itself as an identity brand. 


Splenda is actually geared to women - in particular women engaged in home and family, who relate to the concept of needing a moment for silence and relaxation. 

To save money or make money, consider what your brand strategy is and why, before heading down the path of implementation. 

* All opinions my own.





Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …