When an executive at Proctor & Gamble was asked how long it took them to build their fastest-growing billion-dollar brand, they answered seven years. The brand was Tide Pods.
Beats by Dre, the headphones and music streaming company, became a $3 billion brand in 3.5 years.
Full disclosure: MKTG, whose role you will hear about, has been a client. But we are not being paid to write this article. Some things just happen.
Beats was the brainchild of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. In a world somewhere above and between Boze hypertech geekdom and simple Apple earbuds, the world of sound was ready for some cherry-red head bling.
Beats was well-funded, but clearly entered a category where they played David against two big Goliaths.
Dr. Dre and Iovine were certainly newsworthy enough. But a pivotal point in mass awareness came early on–during the 2012 London Olympics. Unwilling or unable to afford the supersmack costs of official Olympics sponsorship, underdog Beats created a lounge just outside the Official Olympics perimeter.
The Beats Lounge was a chill zone amidst the helter-skelter of the massive event taking place outside. Celebrities wandered in and wandered out. People from all over the world sprawled on couches. It had the energy of a stylish crash pad, but was more like an adrenalin pump.
It was a cool place to be, and it was a hit. (And what’s with all the crazy red headphones?)
The Beats Lounge concept was so strong, it survived the Olympics. Experience engagement firm MKTG, who had first conceived and ran the Lounge, was now in charge of prolonging the buzz on this side of the Atlantic.
Emboldened by the Olympics success, MKTG redesigned the Lounge as a pop-up in Times Square. The micro-retail concept took off again, so they moved it to another high traffic area: Soho. Staying agile, and not to burden the fledgling Beats with the headaches of managing a retailing operation, MKTG ran the entire bricks and mortar retail, from design to managing staff to turning in receipts at night. Bang bling.
The Soho shop became even more popular than the Olympics stunt. It went viral, as they say.
And the rest is big bucks.
Of course, the Brand called Beats is much more than its retail operations. It was founded by people who know something about sound, about music, about pop culture. Beats by Dre is as much creed as it is nomenclature. With three music heroes at the helm (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails joined BbD in January 2013 when they launched music streaming), they bring street cred to a category whitewashed by engineering esthetes and plastic accessories. They have added underdog to the mix.
The question: Now that Apple and Beats have become one, will the beats go on or will their agile moxie be diffused by one of the world’s largest brands?
(And see if you can get into the Apple Corp holiday party this year. They’ll be the hottest tickets in town.)