Looking at Marketing Innovation at Sonos

Sonos has built a hot consumer brand in a remarkably short period of time in a very competitive industry: consumer audio. Founded in 2003, the company has established itself as a consumer audio heavyweight with innovative products, distinguished marketing and great press.

Sonos products have long had a following amongst audiophiles and tech geeks. But in the past few years the company has expanded its brand awareness significantly, succeeding in making something that is basically sort of nerdy (audio equipment) feel young, progressive and cool.

So how did Sonos leverage its brand marketing to go from niche offering to consumer darling?

For starters, the company has acted like a talent scout for the past few years, enlisting a who’s who of about-to-be-huge musicians like DJ Questlove, Janelle Monae and Deadmau5.

They’ve constructed the Sonos Studio in Los Angeles, an acoustically-designed gallery in the heart of the city that celebrates music listening. A network of notable collaborators participate in, and co-develop, listening parties, film screenings, art installations, workshops and live musical performances. It’s been a consistent generator of buzz (and cool) for two years now.

In January, Sonos aggressively entered the world of Super Bowl advertising, a sphere usually marked by more traditional consumer brands, with this remarkable spot that listed legendary hip-hop producer Rick Rubin as executive music producer.

Now, their latest product might help them surpass established audio giants.

Sonos’ universal music search is intended to act as a grand unifier for the hodgepodge of music services that the average audio consumer already utilizes. Between purchased iTunes music, your favorite Pandora stations, and the other streaming music services – it can be confusing to manage it all. But Sonos has seamlessly connected all of these in their new app.

As the Wall Street Journal notes,

The first time you install Sonos, it will scan your computer’s existing music collection and put all those songs and playlists into its database. Then it will ask you to log in to (or sign up for) streaming music services and Internet radio stations.

After you’ve done that once, a search box right at the top of the new Sonos app lets you find and play songs, artists and albums across all your different sources. You can build playlists without worrying about where a song comes from—no switching apps, inputs or other kludgy controls. Just click on a song and it plays.

It’s a long way from where Sonos was in 2005. Back then, founder John MacFarlane considered his competition “Apple, apple, apple,” while CNN Money worried that MacFarlane’s vision might not be enough to avoid getting “squashed” by its competitors. But they didn’t, and now the speaker company is giving companies like Bose and Panasonic a run for their money.

Sonos isn’t taking any breaks either. Rather than becoming comfortable in their new-found fame, the consumer audio company just picked up XBox bigwig Marc Whitten. Witten, who worked on the original Xbox and Xbox Live, will be Sonos’ chief product officer.

The real genius behind Sonos is having a marketing strategy and product completely in sync. The creative utilizes a minimalist aesthetic that fits the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality of the speakers. Their TV spots often feature white, hyper-modern apartments set up with Sonos equipment.

Sonos has a few unique advantages when it comes to marketing. It made one the first wireless speakers and was able to to carve out their own corner of the market. But more to the point, Sonos has managed to blend technology, hip cachet and giant reach to make the company a household name. It’s an effort that savvy marketers would be smart to watch closely.