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Why Bose is shifting marketing focus from demographics to cycles of demand


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

September 7, 2022 | 6 min read

While music remains the core of its pitch to consumers, the audio brand is also opening its ears to gaming and podcast audiences as it markets its new range of noise-canceling headphones.

Bose's range of audio products retain the focus on quality - but the way they are marketed is changing

Bose is changing its marketing focus from demographic-based to serving cycles of demand / Bose

Bose has always been associated with music and musicians, through partnerships with huge bands like Gorillaz. But as audio formats evolve, the brand is transitioning its approach to reaching consumers. Its plan is to increasingly market itself as a publisher of a range of content including podcasts and gaming.

That is a necessity as discovery and recommendation of products increasingly shifts to social platforms, where communities of enthusiasts cluster around influencers. Bose’s chief marketer Jim Mollica tells us: “We have this obligation to bring those passionate experiences and solutions to these fans out there in the world. And the way you do that today is where they spend all their time, which is in social. So it’s about creating content and experiences that people can see as passionate music fans.”

He says that consumer habits over the past few years have been unusual, which in turn changed who Bose sought out as influencers within the space. “You don’t look at an influencer for all things. You’re looking at people that are specialists or curators of that craft, which aligns so nicely with us. We are curators, we’re specialists within this field, we’re not a catch-all.”

Referring to the partnership between Bose and the estate of the musician Prince, which delivered an immersive experience and range of branded products, he says the tie-up acted as a beacon for music influencers, as did its work with historic record stores in the US.

Mollica notes: “My belief is this marks a change in the way we market. It’s less about what we say, more about what we do. And it’s really focused on experiences, content [and] community building.” As a result, while the brand divides its audience up into a number of different cohorts, it is focused on three primary use cases when it comes to considering consumer behavior: in the home, on the go and in the car.

Intimacy of audio

That change also signals what Mollica states is another step in the company’s transition from a demographic-based marketing strategy to one that is about cycles of behavior. That is predicated on understanding when and where a consumer’s desire to upgrade or purchase audio hardware emerges.

However, he also points out that Bose hasn’t always nailed down that approach. He refers to Bose Frames – sunglasses with Bluetooth speakers in the arms – as an example of a product that was technically extremely proficient but released a few cycles before consumers were ready for them.

By contrast, the company’s focus on its newly launched headphones builds upon tried-and-true products for which the brand is known. Mollica notes that the headphones can trace their ancestry back to the first noise-canceling products developed by Bose.

Echoing some of the lessons from our Audio Deep Dive, Mollica says we are currently living through an “audio Renaissance” in which consumers are consuming more and increasingly various forms of audio content: “We just did a huge partnership with Game of Thrones. You take this premium content company like HBO and it wants to highlight House of Dragon’s incredible soundtrack and score.

“There’s also an opportunity in gaming, with the soundtracks built into gaming, those immersive experiences – and, of course, with podcasts, because nobody only listens to one thing at a time.”

Iterating upon audio products is vital for keeping the Bose brand front and center with musicians, who act as the heart of the community. That is very much in line with how other brands are shifting their social strategy, eschewing spray-and-pray broadcast methods of reaching huge audiences in favor of smaller but more valuable communities of fans.

But Bose is also recognizing that, as consumer habits change, so too must the means of marketing to them. Demographics are useful tools, but for big-ticket items like audio hardware, understanding the cycles of desire and demand is more effective.

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