A few days ago Seth Godin posted a very interesting blog post: “Are $300 headphones worth it?” He had in mind Dr. Dre's headphones Beats which are positioned from $119.95 to $449.95. Apparently his friend wanted to buy one model for $300. Godin argued that even if they (Beats headphones) produce a sound which is the same from $39 headphones, that's not really the issue. He says »It's not what sounds better; it's what's worth it. «

He continues »The Dre headphones come with admiring glances at no extra charge. They come with self-esteem built in. You can argue that this is a worthless feature in a device designed to reproduce sound accurately, but you'd be wrong. «

Beats by Dr. Dre headphones in Dr. Dre's music video Kush (2010, Aftermath, screen capture)

Beats By Dr. Dre is a brand of headphones and loudspeakers created by hip-hop/rap musician Dr. Dre and Interscope Records's chairman Jimmy Iovine. The headphones are made by Monster. The Beats by Dr. Dre brand was established in 2008 and Iovine remembers that the venture started by a chance, after a meeting between the two them on a beach. Dre said »Man, my lawyer wants me to sell sneakers.« And Iovine replied »Dre, nobody cares what kind of sneakers you’re wearing, man. Screw sneakers, sell speakers. «

Beats headphones have some fierce competition. There are, of course, high-end brands, mainly Bose, Bang & Olufsen and Sennheiser which target tech-savvy consumers or those who buy headphones to build self-esteem. On the other hand you have trend(ish) oriented Skull Candy for example. Dre and Iovine chose an interesting marketing strategy:

  • They’ve used popular musicians and sportsmen for branding. They’ve introduced JustBeats Solo by Justin Bieber, Heartbeats by Lady Gaga, DiddyBeats by Sean Combs and PowerBeats by LeBron James. Consequently all those celebrities are used as spokespersons for the brand.
  • The headphones often appear in music videos and movies, which subconsciously mean that they are popular and relevant in the music business and/or show business. On headphones official website you can even see pictures and videos of celebrities using headphones.
Beats by Dr. Dre headphones in Lady Gaga's music video Poker Face (2008, Streamline, screen capture)

We could've spotted Beats headphones in Dr. Dre's latest music video Kush, in David Guetta's Who's That Chick, in Lady Gaga's Poker Face and LoveGame, in Far East Movement’s 2gether, in Nicole Scherzinger’s Don’t Hold Your Breath. Additionally Beats speakers were included in will.i.am's music video Check It Out, while we could see headphones in post-apocalyptic movie The Book of Eli. You can check several examples of Beats product placement on my Flickr page.

Beats by Dr. Dre headphones in The Book of Eli (2010, Warner Bros., screen capture)

One of the most significant moves by Beats was their inclusion in Apple stores and in the largest US electronics retailer Best Buy. However, to beat the competition you have to be present in all relevant retail stores and of course have a competitive product. But when it comes to marketing and branding, there was definitely a niche that was filled by Beats. With Dr. Dre’s name on the product, nice design and the impressive number of placements in music videos they’ve certainly succeeded. And I have to admit: “I want that product!”

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  1. You put Bose and Sennheiser on the same category? Sennheiser is in my opinion a respected brand targeting audiophiles, Bose clearly is not.