How Bang & Olufsen amplified appeal to Gen Z without alienating aging audiophiles
The high-end audio brand’s creative director tells us how warmth and emotion were key to resonating with younger audiences.
Bang & Olufsen's 'See Yourself in Sound' campaign capitalized on Spotify Wrapped data
Founded in Denmark in 1925, Bang & Olufsen has been at the cutting edge of high-end consumer electronics since before it was cool.
From its 1972 Beogram record player with its innovative tangential tonearm to the 1996 Beosound 9000 vertical CD player that makes a hero of the disc changer mechanism, the audio brand has never had a problem distinguishing itself – not with the more mature audiophile at least.
As creative director Paul Collins explains: “We’ve always had a massive affinity from our older audience; we’ve been around a long time. The question, however, is how we balance that and not alienate that existing audience while still looking towards who we want to attract in the future.”
Before Collins joined the brand, there were various attempts at resonating with that younger audience, he says, including executions that aligned with high-fashion houses. And while Collins says these ideas were along the right lines, what went wrong was the visual expression.
“Looking to fashion and using that as a vehicle to interpret what luxury is was just perceived as aloof and very cold,” he says. ”We wanted to deliver something incredibly warm and full of emotion.”
The core focus of Bang & Olufsen’s rebrand, therefore, was to rediscover a human-centric approach, “talking about feelings, books, music.” Its 2021 Christmas campaign served as a return to this route, which he calls “something of a John Lewis moment.”
The team refurbished some of its old products, including that iconic Beogram record player, to feature in the ad: “We revamped them, replaced the woodwork and gave them a second life.” And it used them to tell an emotive story about a woman discovering the relics in her attic.
“The ad evokes a feeling of heritage and the listening experience you get sitting at home as she watches her mother and father dance to the song. It wasn’t necessarily about making you buy a new thing but showcasing the things that mean a lot to you.”
It was this universal relationship between music and emotion that then helped form a campaign specifically targeted at Gen Z and younger consumers. In partnership with Spotify, it drew inspiration from the music streaming platform’s ever-popular ‘Wrapped’ series. “We knew that Spotify Wrapped just worked as a mechanic because 65 million people use it and everyone loves it.”
Suggested newsletters for you
The question remained: how do you use that data and deploy it effectively? By tapping into the algorithms used by Spotify as well as a questionnaire for listeners not on the platform, Bang & Olufsen was able to create different musical ‘personalities,’ each with its own visual identity. These components resulted in a 3D, personalized avatar that embodied the “mood, energy and groove“ of a person’s listening history. “We wanted to give everyone their 50 megabytes of fame,” says Collins
The campaign was a success. 70,000 avatars were created in the first two weeks and the platform is still running online.
In the future, Collins says it will be extrapolating the learnings from that campaign to create new KPIs around consumer feelings toward and relationships with the brand. “Once you scratch the surface, people know who we are, but we want to be top of mind.
“We’ve had an amazing creative journey so far. We’re an organization that understands the power of creativity and there’s an appetite for boldness. You can expect to see more of this kind of work that cuts through in a world where everything feels pretty homogenous.”
The Drum interviewed Paul Collins, creative director of Bang & Olufsen, in September at the Paradigms conference in Lisbon.