The secret formula: data is best when mixed with insight.

Author:Christensen, Lisa
Position:SILICON SLOPES - Beats by Dre

Data is great, but in a data-saturated world, it's the unique insights that can be drawn from that information that can give marketers the edge.

Omar Johnson, CMO of Beats by Dre, has been widely quoted as saying data is useless as a means of innovation. What he means by that, he corrected at the Qualtrics Insight Summit, is that looking at the same data that everyone else has will likely lead to the same ideas everyone else comes up with--unless that data is turned on its head and utilized uniquely.

"[How] do I pivot between the idea of data and insight to experience? The word 'insight' to me is the important one," he said. "If you think about data, you think about the platform, it's there. Your competitor has access to it, you have access to it--you may have different ways of getting it, but it's there."


When Johnson came to Beats by Dre in 2012, it was abundantly clear from the data that the market, with a greater and greater emphasis being placed on cheap, brightly colored earbuds, was no place for a company making bulky high-end headphones. Headphone sales were flat, and there was more and more competition every day.

But while the product might have been a tough sell, Johnson and the rest of the marketing team found another angle with more unplowed ground to work with: they started looking at the headphones as an experiential accessory.

"Consumers were choosing things like color over quality, and people wanted something disposable. People were choosing earbuds. They were going from big headphones to small headphones," he said. "We looked at it from an experiential perspective.... The emotion from the studio wasn't coming through. As music lovers, we were getting less and less coming through."

To develop their unusual marketing campaign, they set some ground rules, like the best idea always wins no matter where it comes from, always being willing to evolve and keeping the product at the center of their efforts. By taking all ideas seriously, employees from all departments soon became more invested in every step of the process, not just their part, Johnson said. The willingness to evolve has also been pivotal in finding ways to market that other companies have missed, he said.

In one 2012 campaign, the company was looking to feature a high-profile athlete, but Johnson said the most obvious candidates, like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, all felt wrong for what they were trying to convey. When they hit on then-Celtics big man...

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