PROFILE: Bluesound

‘Awareness is a really big issue for us’

Bluesound is trying to raise awareness of its brand in the UK and is going head to head with the likes of Sonos in the hi-fi space. It is also committed to hi-res audio and its products feature MQA decoding capability. Amie Filcher discusses its plans with June Ip (pictured), vice-president of marketing

Q: We hear that you’re planning to take on Sonos. If so, what is your strategy?
June Ip:
I wouldn’t say that we are directly going after Sonos, I think that the overlap between the brands is probably not as large as people think. We have a different position in the market from Sonos. We are broadening that market and finding more people to connect with.

Bluesound products are operating in an interesting, competitive space. Multi-room audio can be purchased and consumed at a much lower price point than Bluesound and, in some instances, much higher also. We’re not interested in targeting the mass-market retail channel, like several of our competitors in our space do. Our differential is our hi-fi roots, which we want to remain true to. Bluesound offers multi-room convenience, without any compromise in sound quality. ‘Audiophile for non-audiophiles’ is a term we sometimes use.

Our recent campaign ‘A Sound in the Making’ looks to extend our reach across our core audience of hi-fi/hi-res consumer base, but through less product and more emotive marketing. We want to reach out to the younger and aspirational music lovers of the future, with an appreciation for high-quality, no compromise listening experience. We do see consumers who were perhaps early adopters of multi-room audio, upgrading to Bluesound. It’s considered more appealing due to its audiophile-grade sound, yet offers versatility with optical/analogue inputs, AptX, USB inputs and a host of features not found on products with lower price points. Native integration with streaming services like Tidal and Deezer, which offer higher-grade music streaming, also helps us to reinforce our position at the premium end of the market.

Bluesound black Pulse soundbar with Flex speakers
Bluesound black Pulse soundbar with Flex speakers

Q: Bluesound aims to create the most ‘true-to-life’ sound reproduction possible. But many argue that streaming services almost make this impossible, as streaming lowers the quality of the audio. What are your thoughts on this?
JI: Our aim to recreate ‘true-to-life’ quality hinges on the assumption that the user is getting the music from a high-resolution source. There’s a link between hi-res music and hi-res audio, and you can’t really have one without the other and expect high-quality sound. In the past two years, there has been industry-wide adoption of the standards around hi-res music and hi-res audio. If consumers are looking for hi-res music, then they are most definitely going to be able to find it, either through one of the streaming services that offer a hi-fi tier or alternatively, there are plenty of CDs and LPs that offer high-resolution music. Getting artists such as Jay-Z behind this [Tidal] and having them opt to record in hi-res will help that and will bring it more to the mainstream market. We’re going to start seeing more of that now that the record labels and record companies have actually signed on and are actively promoting hi-res music.

The other thing to consider is technology such as MQA [Bluesound says it offers the only multi-room system with MQA decoding capability]. MQA came up with a really clever way of essentially taking a full-resolution audio file and being able to fold a file of a certain size, so it can be played through streaming technology, but not lose any of the pertinent data that affects audio quality.

We’re not interested in targeting the mass-market retail channel, like several of our competitors in our space do. Our differential is our hi-fi roots, which we want to remain true to

Q: Are you looking to grow your share in the UK market? Was this the thinking behind the campaign and documentary?
The UK market has a strong hi-fi heritage and we want people to have our products in their homes. So we’re trying to bring people on board with the brand. From market research that we’ve done in the past, we found that awareness was a really big issue for us. Once people knew about the product, they loved it – they loved the design and how it sounded. So it was never a problem with the product, it was an issue with awareness. And so, this is where the campaign comes into play.

The objective of ‘A Sound in the Making’ was to build awareness of the brand among an audience and through channels that we have not traditionally pursued. Up until now, we have been focused on selling Bluesound to the established hi-fi enthusiast – the ones who came of age during the heyday of hi-fi in the Seventies and Eighties. We believe that the next generation of music lovers have an appreciation of great sound, but they don’t want, or don’t have the space for, 430mm hi-fi components. Bluesound is the perfect way for them to enjoy high-resolution music without sacrificing space and aesthetics.

The campaign is centered around videos featuring bands discussing a song of their choice and delves into deconstructing the creative and technical process – the influences behind it, the hidden complexities, the role that each instrument plays, the approach to mixing and the song’s role in the greater picture of their body of work.

BluOS 2.14
BluOS 2.14

Q: Will you be running more campaigns like this in the future?
JI: Yeah. We’re happy with how people have responded to the campaign. We’ve had very positive feedback on it. It will probably evolve just because campaigns always do. But we’ll definitely continue this kind of marketing, where we’re creating content that is really meaningful to the true music lover – the music lover that we want to attract, who wants to hear the nuance in the performance. We want to continue to create content that they will relate to.

Q: How important are independent retailers to you?
JI: Independents are a part of our galaxy, because they are the ones that are going to be familiar with the product and the brand. For a product like ours, it does sometimes require a bit of explanation and we really trust in the independent retailers to be able to offer that, but also offer them something visually. We want users to have the opportunity to sit down and listen to some music on our devices.

Q: How can you support independent retailers?
We try to create content that our independent dealers can share with audiences. We’re really trying to drive that awareness, so that the independents can focus on what they do best, which is giving the presentation and talking to the consumer – and in turn raise awareness so that we become a ‘pull’ brand for them. The goal is to be able to help the independent, so that when they decide to carry our brand, we’re doing our part to help drive traffic to their store.