How B&O PLAY is using emotion to take on the likes of Beats and Sony

As B&O PLAY launches H5, a new set of wireless headphones, we talk to Jens Jermiin, its global marketing manager, and creative agency B-Reel about how the brand is positioning itself against the competition.

Bang & Olufsen is a brand that speaks of immense quality and craftmanship. But its products notoriously also come at a cost, often one that excludes the average music fan. Enter B&O PLAY, launched four years ago and aimed specifically at a younger generation, with products including portable speakers and wireless headphones.

According to Jermiin, PLAY is based on the same principles of the wider Bang & Olufsen brand, of design and quality, but is intended to try and bring customers in at a younger age. “Ideally you could serve a customer as a lifetime loyalist, starting out with getting to know us through the headphones and the portable speakers, and then maturing and also becoming acquainted with the more extensive sound systems and bigger speakers from Bang & Olufsen,” he says.

The brand was created, in part, in response to the success and increasing market domination of brands including Beats, Pulse and Sony. It was important to get the price point correct, and while B&O PLAY remains premium, it is pitched to be within reach of younger consumers, just about. “Most of our products range from £150-£350 so it is within gift range – the 18 year-old birthday, the wedding present, it is definitely within that range,” says Jermiin. “It’s a bit more expensive than our competitors but not a lot. But we do believe that our quality and design, and the whole experience justifies that price. We see that people are buying our products, and the Beoplay A1 has become the fastest selling product in the history of Bang & Olufsen with 50,000 speakers sold in one month. So we definitely think our price matches the experience and the expectations.”

While Beats has linked up with big name sports stars to create a slick marketing position, B&O PLAY is opting for a more emotional approach, aiming to emphasise the transformative effect that music can have on our lives. “We identified a space that we want to claim, which is the emotional space, that magical transformation that music can create,” says Jermiin. “We believe that music is basically making the world a better place – and we believe that if people are using our products to listen to music, they will listen to even more music.”

The brand has launched a series of films to promote its products (two shown above), which show a range of situations they can be used in but also speak of the wider affects of music on our lives. “We shot the films in multiple locations in Portugal,” says James Jenkins, COO Europe of creative agency B-Reel. “We chose Portugal as we were able to get the feeling of urban, outdoor and forest settings. Magnus Härdner directed the films, as we needed someone who could draw real emotions from the cast to tell stories that we can all relate to.

“We wanted to communicate the power that music has to change a situation, whether to make you feel happy, sad, angry or excited,” he continue. “We wanted to bring this to life by staying as close to reality as possible – staying away from cheesy corporate communication.”

B&O installation at Heartland festival in Denmark
B&O installation at Heartland festival in Denmark
B&O installation at Heartland festival in Denmark

The brand has also identified a specific social group – young, urban creative professionals, who are interested in design – that it aims to reach, and alongside the traditional ads, hopes to have a presence at relevant festivals and arts events around the world. It recently trialled this approach with an installation at Heartland, a boutique music festival in Denmark, which featured a mix of musicians and artists, including Mark Ronson, Brian Eno, The Flaming Lips and Marina Abramovic. The installation, pictured above, aimed to be a chill out space, featuring headphones hanging from an oak tree which played a curated podcast series about the meaning of sound.

The intention is, of course, to build in a richer and deeper relationship with the audience at these events. “Our thinking is to activate our brand up against a cultural calendar, where we know we have the attention of our global target group,” says Jermiin. “So the likes of Coachella, South by SouthWest, Beijing Design Festival, Art Basel Miami… those cultural events, we want to be part of those conversations.

“We want to be there in a very relevant and meaningful way.”

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