His creative methods helped morph Beats by Dre headphones into a $1.1 billion company. He helped spearhead a viral social media campaign for the movie Straight Outta Compton that had much of the nation creating personalized memes inspired by the film.
And on Sept. 12, Omar Johnson enlightened Entrata Summit 2018 attendees with insights that could improve multifamily marketing in a keynote session in Park City, Utah. The marketing executive, who also utilized his outside-the-box approach to serve as a boon to the product development of Coca-Cola, Nike, Kraft Foods and others, shared how Beats became an international phenomenon and encouraged apartment professionals to dedicate increased focus on the emotional cravings of their residents and prospects.
“It’s less about creating a great marketing communications campaign and more listening to the real emotional needs of the people, and giving them something that answers that,” said Johnson, the former CMO of Beats Electronics. “Marketing is meant to touch people.”
To illustrate that concept in action, Johnson shared several ways that Beats headphones were able to meteorically rise to the best of breed in the headphones market, often without the need for extraordinary advertising dollars. Large-scale pro athletes wore them regularly, sometimes while preparing for games and other times to block out outside noise. That was the result of Beats’ using storytelling to speak to them emotionally. Not once did Beats’ marketing campaign focus on the volume, frequency or nuts and bolts of the product.
Beats ascended on an international level during the 2012 Olympics in London, when the company made the bold move to have an athletes-only open house in Olympic Village. It became popular quickly, and soon athletes from across the globe were preparing for their events in Beats headphones that matched their country’s colors. That propelled Beats to earn 91 to 97 percent of the category dollars on Black Friday in the ensuing years.
“People think marketing is building a brand,” Johnson said. “It’s two different things. Marketing is expensive, subjective and unreliable. A brand is built on product, people and storytelling. People are No. 1 and product is king. But storytelling is how you genuinely reach your audience.”
That was the case during the Johnson-fueled Straight Outta Somewhere campaign. Realizing NWA, the pioneering rap group profiled in the film, named their smash-hit album Straight Outta Compton because they were proud to be from the rough urban area, Johnson saw opportunity. Everyone is proud of being from someplace. So his team helped build the meme that allowed users to post their photo then fill in the blank after “Straight Outta.”
The campaigned reached 1.2 billion people and inspired 9 million memes. The effort inspired Business Insiders to name him one of the Top 50 CMOs in 2016.
Johnson implored the multifamily sector to focus less on the binary aspects of its communities (rent, lease terms, etc.), observe customer trends and focus on the emotional needs of prospects. Talk to people outside of your common circle and get diverse opinions. And if the altered approach makes you a bit uneasy, that’s not a bad thing.
“I use fear as fuel because I always have tons of it in my body,” said Johnson, who noted an intimidating conversation with results-focused Dr. Dre shortly after joining Beats. “You can let fear slow you down or you can use it as a driving force.”