Getting schooled on branding by Dr Dre.

What’s a great brand worth?

About 3 Billion dollars, according to The Defiant Ones.

Branding is the make or break for most businesses.

Build a brand that your target market loves, and wants to engage with, and you’re well on your way to market domination. Never has this been so evident than in a generation where a single celebrity endorsement can sell millions; and in the case of Beats by Dr Dre, a partnership of musical and marketing genius proved to be worth billions (three, in fact, as per the reported sale price of the brand to Apple).

In Netflix’s four-part docuseries, The Defiant Ones, we are taken through the back story (and catalogue) of music producer, Jimmy Iovine. A pure hustler, Jimmy was able to go from studio assistant to producing some of the biggest music acts history has known, in just a few years. From John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks to Snoop Dogg, Iovine played a key role in their success.

But, while it’s easy, you shouldn’t get distracted—this is the backstory of the sale of a headphone brand to Apple. What gave the brand its value? Dr Dre’s credibility as a hip hop music producer. Dre and Iovine had been working together since Iovine made the bold move of signing him, at a time when the LA riots and imploding race relations made others fear to touch his politically charged music.

As Dre’s artists and he himself moved up the charts, his reputation as a legend of hip hop gave him tangible street cred. The youth trusted Dre to find artists who spoke for them and with them, and when it came time for Dre to finally attach his personal brand to a commercial product, he wanted a product he himself would love to use—quality, stylish headphones, for people with attitude.

At that moment, the docuseries shows how Iovine began to use his innate marketing talents (and every celebrity or musician he encountered) to guerrilla market the brand, and build real hype.

From basketballers to producers, everyone who was anyone (to the youth of America) were issued their Beats headphones to wear as the paparazzi captured their moves. Beyond this, Iovine got every artist he was working with to wear them in their music videos—building so much hype around the brand, its value was clear.

What can brands learn from Iovine and Dre?

When you look at Iovine, a middle-aged, white, family guy, he’s probably not what you think of when you think of hip hop cred. By Iovine is an incredible reader of music trends. His talent is to understand what young people are looking for, before they even know it themselves.

As a brand living in arguably a post-post-modern world, when agility is key to survival and attention spans are perhaps at their shortest, knowing what your audience is hungering for is the skill most successful brands can master. It may not necessarily be trends, but it’s certainly experience.

What is the brand experience my audience is seeking? Knowing the answer to this question, is what will divide the visionary brands from the rest.

Iovine recognised that a gap in the market existed for a product that music lovers would love (high quality headphones) and an experience that spoke to them (high quality headphones that are a little badass). Sure, the designer will argue that they were responsible for capturing the desired look, but the truth is, the marketing defined what that look would come to mean for their audience.

By combining a relatively high-end headphone (audiophiles may argue with the quality) with a popular and subversive artist, you’ve created desire—and when you have desire, especially with a spend-happy audience, you’ve hit the sweet spot.

Dr Dre’s brand was cleverly built. He knew the story and image he wanted to tell, and he has been consistent. As an artist, he’s known for his incredible production talents—his ear for great sound. With a coolness to him, naturally a product that shares his brand story (a cool set of headphones that deliver great sound) makes so much sense.

How can you apply this to your own business?

When a business understands its own brand story, and has a very clear view on what defines it, it becomes so much easier to find great opportunities. Storytelling isn’t just a marketing or PR exercise—in our over-mediated, under-attentive world, it’s an essential business tool.

Who knew we would all learn a thing or two from Dr Dre; but by dissecting how this transaction took place (after a generation of brand storytelling), it all becomes clear, and there’s plenty here for businesses to learn from.



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