I love Bluetooth earbuds/headphones. I don’t know why – my usage is fairly standard: some music (I listen to write notes for my playlist on my other blog, Milliblog), work-related calls on my phone and on the laptop (video calls), an hour of TV shows while I run (on the treadmill) and 30-45 minutes of audiobook listening before I sleep. I use 4-5 different earbuds/headphones for these 🙂
I keep looking at new models and launches and consider buying many, and end up buying some… more.
What I have not bought so far are the true wireless models that are the rage right now. I do have plans to buy one, but I have not found one truly (pun intended) appealing in terms of features and battery life.
But, given that I’m quite interested in the space, and in the true wireless category in specific, I keep looking at how they advertise. In terms of what they choose to highlight and ignore in their communication.
Here is a round-up of what I have observed so far.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, November 2018
Sennheiser focuses on a rather generic message: ‘Things change when you listen’. The communication does not focus on the true wireless aspect explicitly and could be used for any earbuds from the company. It looks more like they haven’t thought-through the communication based on the true wireless’ perspective.
Samsung Galaxy Buds – February 2019
No story-telling per se, but more of a here-is-what-it-is explanation with a voice-over. Showcases a couple of functions, including the focus on the fit, touch-and-hold for pause, and the ground-breaking option to charge it wirelessly through the Galaxy phone!
Powerbeats Pro (Beats By Dre), April 2019
The focus is exclusively on one aspect – ease of use/wearing in terms of the fit. Some of the best sportspersons from the US wear the product and go about their vigorous activity even as it stays intact on their ears! That’s an astonishingly creative way to depict the fit, and the video uses a kinetic style edit where the earbuds remain the center of attention while people move around it. This is Apple-like story-telling, and perhaps more purposeful than even Apple that had veered into surrealism.
Sony Headphones WF-1000XM3, July 2019
Sony tries Apple’s narrative style – ‘being transported’ is the core, but unlike Apple’s surreal twists, this one plays on a more practical level. A user in a busy office is able to shut off the ambient noise around him and get himself immersed in the music provided by the buds. This is almost as if Apple was forced to think real 🙂
Amazon Echo Buds, September 2019
Now we’re heading somewhere. Amazon focuses on actual features – you can talk to it and make it do things (playlist, resume audiobook) via Alexa integration, it stays in your ear as you jog, it has active noise reduction, it includes a passthrough mode, battery life, and so on. It’s a functional laundry list, and the communication is less creative and more brochure’ish.
Microsoft Surface Earbuds, October 2019
Rather brochure’ish again, but also lavishes attention on the many features in an attempt to own the category given how new it is. So, features like gesture and voice-enabled use, one-click pairing, Microsoft Office 365 integration (!!) and within that, translation in 60 languages! Not bad, that is interesting, and pushes the boundaries of the category in new directions. If you notice this ad, you see the same kinetic style edit as in the Powerbeats Pro where the buds stay in the center unmoved and people move around that fixture.
Google Pixel Buds, October 2019
Very Google, with extensive focus on the features, including real-time translations (going past Microsoft’s translation for Office 365 only)! The kinetic movement first seen in Powerbeats and Microsoft Surface Buds is seen here briefly. The story-telling seems more laundry-list style with some amount of creativity in the showcase.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, January 2021
The extreme opposite of Apple in every way 🙂 The film explains every feature threadbare and they are impressive, no doubt. It’s just that what could be shown (and expect people to comprehend) ends up as a reiteration in a ‘look at it, listen to us explaining’ manner.
And then there’s Apple!
Apple has so far released 5 digital films (agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab) to promote AirPods, with the same template – moving through streets. The most obvious functionality being showcased is the fit – that they stay!
The first 3 films – Stroll (January 2017, dancer Lil Buck), Sway (November 2017) and Bounce (June 2019) use a surreal twist in the narrative to dramatize ‘being transported‘ element. That evokes a second question – is this fit for real, or is that surreal too? 🙂
The 4th film, Snap (March 2020, dancer Matilda Sakamoto), is more expressive, and the scenery change (depicting noise cancellation and transparency mode) is handled better.
In the latest (March 2021), Jump (featuring double Dutch champion Kengo Sugino), there are no scenery changes, no surrealism (except for the part where Kengo merges into the wall art – a beautiful touch!) and he is the actual performer, making it most real, usage-wise.
When you see Apple’s communication strategy vs. all other true wireless brands, you’d realize that the singular focus makes a big difference!
No, I have not found a true wireless product that I think I may buy… yet. I feel the category has to evolve more in multiple dimensions (battery life, to begin with). And yes, I’d definitely write about my first purchase.