In the increasingly crowded wireless audio category, brands like Bose, Google Home and Samsung Radiant360 are all jockeying for a retail market that accounted for nearly $2 billion worth of sales in 2016 alone.
Yet for Sonos, 2016’s No. 2 wireless audio brand in overall sales, the real competition exists within the home itself, where sometimes little to no music is played during many of life’s key moments. Sonos tackles its “silent home” enemy in a new 90-second spot that debuted Thursday (Feb. 9) and will air during Sunday’s Grammy Awards on CBS, as well as pre-movie trailers in cinemas throughout the next month. Here, it is Thin Lizzy's classic jam "Jail Break" that helps to conquer the silence.
The initial idea for the new campaign sprung from 2016’s Music Makes It Home, a proprietary study Sonos conducted among 30,000 people worldwide, as well as 30 homes in eight different countries. In lieu of other premium-audio products, many homeowners opted for what Sonos chief marketing officer calls “craptop speakers, and the privatization of music through headphones. None of those are able to give you that visceral thrill that a great sound experience can offer.”
That insight fueled Sonos’ 2016 partnerships with Airbnb (via Brooklyn’s Rough Trade) and home-furnishings retailer West Elm, as well as its own premier brick-and-mortar location in New York’s Soho district. So when it came to showcase the most ideal cures for the silent home in the current campaign, Sonos updated its research efforts to zero in on the psychographic causes for such behavior.
“This study was conducted just before the election, so the idea that you could be sitting in the same room as somebody having a completely different experience in the world and not actually communicating with each other about your distinct realities created a huge opportunity,” says Dmitri Siegel, VP-global brand at Sonos. For the “silent home” campaign to truly succeed, he added, Sonos would have to “put name to a disease. So we’ll be looking to whether people get the idea of screen isolation or being hyper-secluded.”
Though Sonos still trails Bose in overall sales, it currently holds the majority of market share in the more narrow Network-connected speaker category. “It’s a brand that’s viewed really favorably by people that own their products, so it benefits a lot from word-of-mouth or enthusiast marketing,” says NPD’s Ben Arnold, executive director-industry analyst for consumer technology. “If you know somebody that owns some Sonos speakers, maybe they’re telling their relatives about it at Thanksgiving. I think that’s a way for them to continue to grow and continue to compete in a fast-moving, constantly changing technology market.”
Perhaps another factor stunting Sonos’ growth? Premium pricing — at least on a relative basis. The Play:1 is Sonos’ lowest-end offering currently available, and at $199.99 it still retails higher than similar products from Samsung ($138.99) and Bose ($179.99.) The Play:5, billed as Sonos’ most studio-quality speaker, goes for $499.99. “Some say that if you buy a pair of Play:5s, you get $10,000 worth of sound for $1,000,” says Howard. “We’ll be offering a lot of sound updates over the next 10 years to add to that value.”
Andrew Hampp is a vice president at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents.