Every year during festivals like SXSW, companies compete with each other to get attention through expensive activations and events, but the ones who stand out are not always the ones who spend the most money. If you are a new startup or a brand who has begun to lose its steam, it requires a little more than a checkbook to make an impact.

This year, B&O Play, the "startup" contemporary audio brand under parent company, Bang & Olufsen, demonstrated how cultural relevance can begin from a little creativity and elbow grease. While B&O Play is hardly the definition of a startup, I'm using their example to show relevance can be earned without a hefty price tag - and can be resurrected from the shadows of a brand who is so established its flatlined.

In this case, the brand's parent company, revered by Apple founders, had never become a true competitor in the music ecosystem. Beats staked claim as the industry leader with names like Iovine and Dre attached, and Jambox and Bose are right behind at second and third.

Differentiate from your market leaders

As with any company, there will be direct competitors, and from an outsider's perspective, it might look like the reason Beats is a leader is because of money, but that is not the case at all. Beats created a cultural movement.

To be unique, a brand must develop a "culture strategy," meaning, they must be thinking about why the narrative around their brand matters to people now.

Create a strong narrative

There is a lot to be said about a company being able to become relevant to the young consumer again after 90 years. Specifically in the US, we're spoiled. We see something new every day and go od design is no longer hard to find.

To create a narrative that was unique to them, B&O Play launched a new event series highlighting innovation in tech, arts and music - a nod to their 90 year heritage. They didn't flex their muscles and host a 300 person party, they didn't pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a popular band or DJ like one might expect - they hosted a young, little known band called Sofi Tukker, who has a surprisingly refreshing genre-less sound.

To create a strong narrative, ask yourself these questions:
What is happening in my industry?
How are we different?
Why should people care about my brand now?


It's time for other brands to take note. No matter how old you are or how much money or funding you have, those few questions will help you decide how to move forward without losing millions trying to be cool.

Published on: Mar 22, 2016