Why Apple paid $3bn for Beats, according to Beats’ marketing chief

Cannes 2014: Apple’s decision to fork out $3bn for the Beats headphone brand came down to its ‘relentless passion and ’fearlessness in telling the truth’, according to Beats marketing boss Omar Johnson.

Speaking at Cannes 2014, Johnson says the brand’s main aim is to inject “emotion and feeling” back into listening to music after too many people opted for headphones and sound systems that “destroyed the feeling of music” and “looked like dental equipment”. He said it is the fearlessness of co-founder Dr Dre and his clear view on what the brand stands for that has made it a success. “Truth is the foundation of the brand. It is what differentiates us from other brands. Dre is fearless in his outlook on the world and his music and that is native to us as well,” he said. 

Beat’s marketing chief Omar Johnson says Apple bought into the brand’s ‘relentless passion and fearlessness to tell the truth’.

Beats’ marketing strategy revolves around a “real and real-time model”, using insights to inform its message and produce campaigns that are timely and relevant, particularly around events such as the World Cup or MTV’s Video Music Awards.

The “Hear What You Want” campaign, which has starred athletes including Cesc Fabregas and Kevin Garnett, came about after the brand spoke to the sports people that wear its headphones to find out why and used those insights to inform its message.

Johnson said there were three main reasons that came out of the research: to make a connection with home, to make the transformation from every day life into an athlete and to help block out the outside world. Johnson describes the first two options as “too easy” and so instead it looked at how athletes use its headphones to help in match-day preparation. 

“We have become the choice of the best, whether it is athletes or musicians. Beats are an authentic part of athletes’ pre-game workout. The stories we tell in our marketing all come from the athletes,” he added.

He also refuted claims that it pays people to wear its headphones. While he does admit that Beats has celebrity “partners” that it uses in its marketing, he said Beats “doesn’t pay a lot of people to do what they do with the headphones”. 

“We put way more money into production, TV, events than we spend on endorsements. We have partners that we work with but our business isn’t big enough to pay all of this talent,” he said.

The Five Pillars of Beats’ Marketing Strategy

1. Truth

2. Culture – how Beats interjects its product into conversations around four key themes: music, sports, fashion and art.

3. Creativity – the best idea wins, whether it comes from the marketing director, the agency R/GA or a junior member of the team.

4. Hustle – getting the most efficiency out of its spend.

5. Family – a revolution in the agency /client relationship and a move away from static briefs into creating marketing that is timely and relevant.