There is an interesting feature in last weekend’s New York Times about Dr Dre’s Beats by Dre headphone range. The headphone market is particularly fascinating when you look at how quickly the market has grown. In the UK alone, it has doubled in size over the past five years and is worth £150 million. What is really eye catching about the Beats by Dre phenomenon is the audiophiles don’t really rate the headphones in terms of sound quality. What is really telling is that they are seen as a fashion statement, with reports of people wearing them at clubs akin to ‘wearing sunglasses at night.’

Despite the fact that we are effectively in a global recession, people are still happy to shell out £300 on a pair of headphones. One trend which is evident in most markets is the squeeze of the middle. You can either be a luxury or bargain brand, but everything else in between is in no man’s land. Beats by Dre falls into this trend.

It reminds me of growing up in Ireland in the 1980s, where having a pair of Levi 501s or Nike trainers was seen as something special. We were only delighted to get our hands on specific labels, but as we became more affluent in the late 90s and at the start of the millennium, we shifted away from mass consumption of specific brands and tried to be unique as consumers with purchases reflecting our personality, rather than status.

It strikes me that we are seeing a shift back to similar behaviour as that in the 80s, where consumers will seek out specific brands that they feel make a statement about their status. Another rapper with his own line of headphones, Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent, sums it up neatly – “Because of the price, it says something about the guy who has it around his neck.”

4 Responses to “In The Age Of Austuriety, Are Brand Becoming Status Symbols Again?”  

  1. 1 Jim Schofield

    I still wear Levi 501s and I’m late forties, how sad is that !

    I fondly remember the guy in the laundromat washing his jeans, to the sounds of “Heard it on the Grapevine”

    Few want to admit the effects advertising had on themselves.

  2. 2 Piaras

    Don’t worry Jim, still wearing them myself!

  3. 3 Chris Kelly

    I thought you grew up in Africa in the 1980s!
    And I can still get a great deal on the Dr Dre’s!

  4. 4 Piaras

    Snuck in two years after ’88

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