Beats by Dr. Dre’s CMO: We’re Moving at the Speed of Culture


To keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s digital world, “moving at the speed of culture” has become a core pillar of Beats by Dr. Dre’s marketing strategy, according to the company’s chief marketing officer (CMO) Omar Johnson.

“Culture for us is sports, music, fashion, art and entertainment. So moving at the speed of culture touches every corner of our business,” said Johnson at an industry event in New York this week.

And though it might seem counterintuitive for a brand that began by selling headphones to music lovers, when it comes to developing content in an effort to keep up with the quickly transforming industries, Beats never starts creating an ad with the concept of music.

“Music is always the last piece,” Johnson said.

From a marketing perspective, he explained, when consumers watch an ad, they usually focus on the quality of the film and the story, rather than the product itself.

Additionally, Beats rarely relies on consumer research to create content. Instead, the brand taps into influencers who are truly engaging with the brand.

“We have influencers from all walks of life: we have LeBron James, we have fashion bloggers, and we have artists. They value our brand. They tell us what we should do with our product, and they tell us where we should market our product,” Johnson said. “When someone gives your brand feedback and you listen, that person becomes more passionate about your brand.”

As Beats continues to grow into a global brand, Johnson admitted that it’s becoming more and more challenging to move at the speed of culture. But the company has found a way to drive its creativity – by creating strong partnerships both internally and externally.

Johnson, who formerly worked at Nike and the Campbell Soup Company, believes that a diverse and creative team is fundamental for marketing success. “My team is 60 percent female. We’ve got Asian, Hispanic, Black, purple hair, no hair, tattoos, and no tattoos,” he said.

To streamline processes, each team member is an expert on a specific subject. “We don’t have many people who are doing multiple jobs,” Johnson said. However, to nurture a strong culture of creativity at Beats, Johnson encourages everyone on the team to voice their ideas, in spite of their positions. “Those ideas are not always great. But as a team, we can help each other shape the idea,” he said.

In addition to building a strong in-house creative force, what else has Beats done to stay on the cutting-edge of the advertising world?

The brand has a unique creative process with its agency partners. Most companies, according to Johnson, have a redundant briefing process with agencies. But Beats adopts a very lean approach.

“There are just two teams in the process: my team and the agency team. Our agency doesn’t present a 40-page deck to us. I ask them to put everything within one page,” Johnson explained.

Then, based on the one-page proposal, his team and the agency team work together to add more layers. “We always build a [campaign] together and see how to launch it across the organization: digital, product, social media, and everything. There’s never a hand-off in the process,” he said.

Finally, Johnson has found a way to make sure the teams’ marketing efforts are realized on Beats’ growing global scale.

“It may not sound sexy, but the new thing that we have done to maintain Beats is building a marketing operations team. They translate what we have been doing to our finance department and product team,” Johnson said. “That helps us scale hyper-creativity.”

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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