Adventures in Marketing: Headphones by Snooki

Say you’re promoting a “premium” product with minimal production costs and you want to heighten its appeal to a certain target audience. What do you do? First you label it “premium” or “exclusive”. Then you slap a barely-related celebrity’s name on it and jack up its price well beyond reason. Score!

The latest industry overcome by celebrity endorsement deals is audio equipment. Headphones appear to be the new sneakers–when the $300 Beats by Dre model debuted a couple of years ago, they were the earwear equivalent of Nike Air Jordans. The first question to ask someone wearing Beats by Dre was either “When’s your album coming out?” or “How can I get tickets to the release party?”

Once marketers realized how profitable this racket can be, everyone and his brother (and his brother’s nephew, who appeared on one episode of some reality show) jumped aboard the C-list headphone train. Are they better than iPod earbuds? Do they offer deeper bass and crisper high-end sounds for compressed, low-quality mp3s? Sure–but this is more than a little ridiculous.

So: Are you a hip-hop star like Ludacris, 50 Cent or Nick Cannon (uh…..)? Are you a flavor-of-the-month athlete like Tim Tebow or Michael Phelps? Are you an embarrassing musical footnote like Mötley Crüe or a long-dead, still-profitable legend like Bob Marley? Are you…Snooki? Most importantly, are you willing to charge more than $100 for a pair of over-ear headphones that provide slightly above-average sound quality to the wearer (and lots of annoying background noise to everyone on his or her subway car)?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you need to release your own custom headphones like, yesterday. And remember–the quality of the product is the least important aspect of your marketing pitch. Just throw out some nonsense about decibels and bass balance and you’ll do fine.