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The Validity of Cool: Lessons to Learn From $500 Headphones

BeatsAudio

I often wonder how $500 headphones can sell in a recession. Do you?  I rarely justify the expense of my Apple gear, and now I don’t think I will with my headphones.  Beats By Dre has made me understand the power of a cool brand a little better this week.

I’ve been working from the Olympics for the last several days, and Beats By Dre headphones are EVERYWHERE. The story of the age-old rivalry between two popular Asian swimmers a few days ago was fueled only by who had the best swagger walking out of the locker room sporting their very hot Beats. Did you see the metallic gold ones on Park Tae-Hwan? Sick!

Here are my 5 do’s for being a cool brand:

1. Do actually have a good product. Previously, no matter how cool (or metallic!) they looked, I could not justify this $300-$500 expense. I’m not a music producer, so why would I need studio headphones? After testing out the quality – the noise reduction, the choice between wireless and wired, and the big bang for me, the mic – I was sold on a good product. Quality is cool.

2. Do give me more bang for my buck. I wear my headphones wired to listen to music when I’m on the plane and unwired to simply block out the baby that always conveniently ends up in front of me, and I turn up my mic when I get off the plane to schedule my airport pickup.  Then it’s back to my music – all while looking super cool. They have justified the cost with a multi-purpose feature set. Quantity is cool.

3. Do look the part. Good design is priceless. We love the iPhone because it’s sleek. Yes, it’s a good product, but so was the Palm i705. Remember that? Thought so. It wasn’t sexy. Give me sleek. Give me sexy. Give me the option to express my personality, my country, or my Olympics team pride through something as simple, yet prominent, as my headphones. A strategically placed red B for Beats or metallic gold, Union Jack, or strategically-placed stars make these headphones cool.

4. Do have product evangelists. How can you make your product so good that people want to sell it for free? Evangelist programs are springing up at top brands simply because they work. Word of mouth and influence marketing are the most efficient and effective forms of marketing.

Brand-sourced evangelist/ambassador programs provide free product testing and R&D. But wouldn’t it be really cool if Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, or the Rizzle Kicks (an adorable British hip-hop duo floating around the Olympics) was your brand ambassador? Celebrity endorsement just wins.

5. Do be a fan of your own product. I have learned so much about the Beats By Dre “cult of cool” this week. From the marketing team to the support agencies to executives that visited in their suits, everyone used their Beats in tandem with their personal gadgets. Beat headphones replaced white iPhone buds, served as a quiet sanctuary amid the chaos, and became neck jewelry for stylish dudes. Hiring people that believe in your brand is organic and effortless, making sales easy. Easy is very cool.

When you’re cool, whether you have a celebrity endorsement or just lots of brand love, you can sell $500 headphones in a recession.

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About the Author

Lindsey C. Holmes is the CEO/Lead Strategist of Usable Tech Co (formerly LCH Business SM & Tech), a digital marketing firm based in Newark, NJ, with an office also in Washington, DC. Lindsey is the Evernote Small Business Ambassador, a self-taught developer, a proud geek, and mom of a shih-tzu named Banks. She spends her free time converting the masses to understand and apply the technology that will make their lives better. Follow her on Twitter @lindseycholmes.

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