The Business of Celebrity-Endorsed Headphones
Stefanie Reichert, vice president of strategic marketing for Sennheiser, a global manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems, said that for the past two years, headphones have evolved from just being a technical consumer electronics product into a product that taps into a consumer’s emotion. She says that besides celebrity endorsed headphones, brands such as Skullcandy have a created a new category in the market that relies on design and fashion elements.
“Sound quality and durability is still the number one purchase driver when it comes to headphones, [but] design and fashion elements is a driver for a few folks and those are the ones who probably wouldn’t purchase this product for the core reason of it, and that is listening to music and appreciating sound,” said Reichert.
Sennheiser has resisted aligning with a celebrity endorser because they currently believe it is not an added value for them. “We want to show consumers that the thing they are putting on their head is made by a company that know the technical aspect of all of that,” she said. “An artist is capable of judging sound but is not capable of manufacturing it and coming up with the engineering.”
Ultimately, though the headphone market has “seen great unit and revenue growth,” according to Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at The NPD Group, “low barrier to entry [into the market] are attracting many boutique brands, which are quickly creating a crowded field,” he said in a press release.
A crowded (and competitive) field indeed. In January, at the International Consumer Electronics Show, 50 Cent revealed his latest business venture with Sleek Audio, a company that specializes in wireless hybrid and tunable audio products, to create a new line of headphones named Sleek by 50 Cent. This line of headphones is said to be the first to offer wireless hybrid technology using military-grade metals. Sleek by 50 Cent utilizes Kleer lossless wireless technology, so music lovers can enjoy over 60 feet of range, wireless track and volume control. The headphones will come with a micro-USB rechargeable battery and if users run out of juice, there is a detachable mic cable that can be plugged in for continued listening.
Sleek by 50 Cent is scheduled for an April release. According to recent reports, Dr. Dre is allegedly on edge about 50’s entry into the headphone market. 50 announced on Twitter last month that Iovine and Dr. Dre were mad at him about doing Sleek. But recently, when TMZ approached Dre about 50 and Sleek, he responded that he had “never heard of his headphone.”
Beef or no beef, Dre and 50 will be getting some competition from Ludacris, who also announced at the Consumer Electronics Show his upcoming brand of headphones called SOUL by Ludacris. The line is a collaboration between Ludacris and Signeo USA, a global company that specializes in pro and consumer audio manufacturing. When SOUL is released, it will offer five different models and feature world-class noise cancellation technology and ultra precise audio mix balancing.