How Omar Johnson Built Beats by Dre Into a $3BN Brand (Conference Talk Digest)

Source: https://siliconslopes.com

Part 2 in my 5 piece series on speakers I saw at Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2018 brings us Omar Johnson, Former CMO @ Beats by Dre. Hope you enjoy.

Here’s the link to my first digest on Stewart Butterfield, CEO Slack. It covers Stewart’s thoughts on creativity, product design, risk-taking and messaging.

About Omar:

I had never heard of Omar before last week. I like his job description as “Former CMO”. I imagine Omar made 8 figures off Apple’s $3BN acquisition of Beats, so he can be “Former Whatever”; he’s still “Currently Loaded”.

Omar shared his story about moving from large corporate marketing jobs (Coke, Kraft, Campell’s Soup, Nike) to the startup that was Beats by Dre, which he joined as employee #5.

When Dre Calls, You Best Pick Up

It’s not every day one gets a call from Dr. Dre, which is exactly what happened to Omar as he sat at his desk at Nike, where he had been for six years.

Omar said he has no clue what he said after he picked up the phone and heard “Yo, This is Dre”, but at the end of the call he said “Yes” to joining Beats.

Going From Big to Small

He recounted his move from Nike to Beats: no huge corporate budget, no 90-day onboarding period to ease into things, no cush office with an array of amenities (just a laptop, a phone and a view of downtown LA).

What he did have was a Dr. Dre eager for results. Dre called him two weeks in on a Friday afternoon asking what was going on. Omar was a bit flummoxed and told him he was getting a feel for the place. Dr. Dre reminded Omar that there was not much to get a feel for as there were only 5 people at the company. Dre said he would call back to check-in. Omar thought this meant in like 30 days. Dre said he’d call him on Saturday….

Fear, One Hell of a Motivator

Omar found his excitement turning to fear fast. He was scared shitless! He shared with us how he got over that feeling of fear and delivered big time to build one of the most iconic consumer brands of the digital age. If Apple ponies up $3BN to buy you, you must be doing something right.

If you want to see some amazing marketing, the type of marketing that had the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit audience enraptured and clapping for more, check out Beats’ marketing videos online.


Session Notes:

On Brand:

3 Pillars of Brand Building.

The best brands don’t coming from great degrees or big budgets. Building great brands comes from three things: Product, People and Storytelling.

Omar asked the audience which of those three is the most important. What do you think?

On People:

People Matter Most.

People are the most important factor in building a great brand. Think about it — people tell the story. People build the products. People are diverse with different interests.

People get your brand owned and earned media (i.e., free marketing). Founders, employees, customers, influencers, rabid fans, they are the ones that tell your brand story and create a movement.

Give People a Tool to Tell Their Story.

You can’t just sit back and rely upon people to tell their story. You have to arm them with a medium for doing so.

For Beats, this was their #straightoutta campaign. They provided the tool and the people did the rest. It got something like 2BN impressions.

Omar’s 6 Rules of Marketing (developed at Beats)

  1. Product is king. Everyone in the company must know and care about the product
  2. We are young. Everyone must bring a “spirit of youth”
  3. We are always authentic
  4. We are the leader. Omar called this a Jedi mind trick. Say you’re the leader, then become the leader.
  5. Live the connection
  6. We move culture. Not enough to just be a part of the culture. You have to move it.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it. If you get the chance to see Omar speak, you’re in for a treat.

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