Love them or hate them, but it can't be denied that Beats by Dr. Dre's headphones have become the biggest name in consumer minds when it comes to headphones.
You might be someone who buys earphones from a roadside stall for 100 rupees or someone who's willing to spend more than a lakh on an Audeze headphone; you'll still know about Beats. In 2012, its market share was 64% in the U.S for headphones priced higher than$ 100 with a Beats headphone selling every four minutes!
The biggest coup that Beats pulled to make this happen was by being the first headphone brand to pull in a truckload of celebrities to use their products. Sometimes, at almost no cost.
A major event that propelled Beats into the limelight was way back in 2008, when the US men's national basketball team stepped off the plane in Beijing for the Olympics, each with a pair of $300 Beats headphones that would become the most iconic alternative to Apple’s white earbud.
And Beats pulled that off mostly for free.
A few hours before the team left for Beijing, Beats got a call. If it could supply 15 pairs of headphones, Maverick Carter, the manager of LeBron James, promised that he would get James to wear them. And if LeBron wore them, everyone in the team would.
Although LeBron endorses Beats headphones for an undisclosed amount of money; most of the team that walked off the plane and sportspersons who used the headphones while warming up don't.
The general approach, according to Beats designerRobert Brunner , was simply painting the headphones in team colors and mailing them to players. Then the players—who most likely wanted to be like LeBron, or just appreciated a pair of noise-canceling headphones that matched their uniform—wore them on TV for national audiences.
That's how it all began.
Another tactic that Beats employs is collaborating with music artistes in a quid pro quo publicity campaign that is lightning fast.
After hearing Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", co-founder Jimmy Iovine got the rights to use the song in an ad and then got Thicke to reshoot the music video--within five days of the original shoot. Then Wood called the CEO of RadioShack and offered to make the ad a dual promotion; RadioShack partly footed the bill.
The Sunday before Black Friday 2012, Will.i.am phoned Iovine: He had just recorded a single with Britney Spears--would it make a good Beats ad? Within 72 hours, Beats filmed Will.i.am and cut a new Black Friday ad with the song; it aired during Thanksgiving football games. Beats got to break a new song, and Will.i.am got millions of dollars in broadcast advertising exposure.
Since then of course, Beats has roped in tons of celebrities some paid, some collaborators and some jumping on the bandwagon paved by people like James, Serena Williams, David Beckham, Gwen Stefani & Lil Wayne.
In 2014, Beats released an ad chock-full of celebrities taking video selfies with their Beats headphones. The ad, called "#SoloSelfie," is a mashup of pop culture's A-list with celebrities like Serena Williams, Kendall Jenner, and Big Sean. This was post the Apple merger, so the whole video appears to be taken using an iPhone 6, making it partially an ad for the phone's stellar camera as well.
The celebrity endorsers have also run into controversy in recent times. At the 2015 Wimbledon games, former player Martina Navratilova said Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams' decision to arrive on court wearing Dr Dre's Beats headphones was 'disrespectful'.
"It's been a pattern now, a lot of players do it," she said. "I think it's disrespectful to the game, to the crowd. You walk out to connect with the audience not to disconnect with them. And it's just unnecessary to be listening to music, what, for ten more seconds?"
However, Navratilova took to Twitter later on to clarify that she felt Williams had done the right thing by removing the headphones as she arrived on court.
All this, including; collective panning by critics, e xposés of 200$ headphones made with 17$ components, has of course not stopped celebrities from all facets of the industry from joining the Beats stable.
And with the latest rumors of Apple ditching the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, the Beats star seems to be on its way to shining brighter than ever before.
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