Case Study: Harman

15 Apr 2015|Added Value

Harman has a tremendous heritage in the audio category based on ground-breaking firsts and superior audio quality. Most people will have experienced their innovative audio even if they weren’t directly aware of it. Widely used for entertainment broadcasting and with over 80 percent of the world’s luxury cars equipped with their brands’ premium audio and infotainment systems, Harman has a significant global presence. But they were losing share to inferior audio brands with stronger consumer stories and marketing presence.

Harman wanted to grasp the heart of true consumer needs; changing its game to become a brand-led and consumer-centric business. They needed bolder, stronger brand positionings to reflect that shift by stepping back and answering the most fundamental marketing questions about the role of their brands – JBL, Harman Kardon, Infinity, and AKG – in people’s lives, their target, consumer needs, brand benefits, and how to express the brand within culture.

Working with Millward Brown Optimor, we set out first to understand and interrogate the category. Our Cultural Strategy experts then mapped the consumer technology space to give Harman an in-depth understanding of the benefit territories at play. This map was the framework that unlocked the positioning spaces and unique benefits for each brand to tap.

Key to creating something with future impact and cultural relevance was an understanding that audio, in consumer’s minds, no longer existed in a discrete silo, but was a piece of a broader “Technology” super-category. We created four inspiring and culturally relevant positionings that were target specific, gave a clear and relevant role for each brand, and projected a unique voice and point of view on the world. We delivered a deep and fundamental understanding of their category and consumer core drivers that create desire and fuel choice, combined with a higher level semiotic understanding of the super-category of Technology – an understanding still driving Harman behaviour today. Our partnership redefined the way Harman approaches brand-building and brand strategy, which is reshaping the way the business approaches marketing deployment and innovation.

But why stop there. For its flagship brands, JBL and Harman Kardon, to jump off the page and start creating waves in the consumer audio market, the newly re-envisioned positionings needed to have a fully-fledged life in the real world. How were the new positionings going to look, sound, and behave? We unlocked the Brand Expression for each brand’s positioning, to have global 360° activation across four key brand touchpoints – Comms, Design, Digital, and Events & Sponsorship.

This was the most robust direction Harman has ever had on activating its brands. The final recommendations not only gave the company a clear sense of what the brand should look and sound like, but also a sharp steer on Do’s and Don’ts for brand behaviour which guide and influence a much wider swath of marketing behaviours. The work is used during the agency briefing process to bridge the gap between brand strategy and brand execution and is already significantly impacting strategic decisions on advertising and product & pack design. Harman Kardon’s latest TV Commercial and upcoming JBL packaging are both directly inspired by this work, and will be in the consumer space this year.

“When embarking on an exhaustive ‘from beginning to end’ learning agenda such as this project, having a strong partner with you through the whole journey is invaluable. Understanding is not lost trying to transfer knowledge from one partner to the next so the core team gets to a deep, profound understanding of the issues, the brands, and the consumer. We couldn’t have gotten to where we did had the Added Value team not been with me on the whole journey, providing thought leadership, keen objectivity, and tapping into the various subject matter and methodology experts within Added Value along the way. There are not many agencies that have expertise in all the pieces and truly strategic client service teams that can string them together and for that I am very grateful to the Added Value team.”

John Livanos, Vice President, Global Strategy & Insights, Harman International

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