Top 10 Innovative Brands 2014: #8 Sonos

The wireless speaker company delivers compelling experiential content with permanent and pop-up activations in United States and beyond.

By Alesandra Dubin June 17, 2014, 7:05 AM EDT

Acrylic furniture embedded with LEDs lit up and pulsed to beat at the Play:1 launch in New York.

Photo: Elisabeth Caren

Although the wireless speaker and component company is privately held—and thus guarded about sharing its financial details—­Sonos announced its revenue nearly doubled to $535 million in 2013. ­Behind the brand’s success, in part, is strategic experiential marketing.

Sonos is so committed to letting consumers experience its products in organic settings that it set up a permanent, acoustically tricked-out space exclusively dedicated to that goal. The Sonos Studio in Los Angeles opened in 2012 and hosts about 30 events annually, courting guests including ­media folks, influencers, and consumers for performances, premieres, ­listening parties, and artist collaborations.

“Creating a compelling event that showcases music, art, and technology is a key part of how we connect with music lovers globally,” says Sonos senior PR manager Eric Nielsen, who confirmed that experiential marketing is a “significant part of marketing spend.”

As a result of the studio concept’s success, the brand plans to launch another permanent setup in London this fall. Sonos has also taken the experience on the road in pop-up form.

For the global launch of its new Play:1 sound system in New York last October, the brand built an immersive installation inside a loft. Over two days, four stylized, all-white rooms—each equipped with a tablet linked to the Play:1 app—allowed guests to pick songs, which the installation’s technology analyzed to wash the room in corresponding colors.

At SXSW in 2013, Sonos took over an Austin, Texas property with two houses, a ­courtyard, and a shed. Equipped with projectors, a Microsoft Xbox Kinect, and the Sonos Playbar, the shed invited visitors to select a song that would then be translated into light and color. Inside a house, attendees could ­create their own speakers out of cardboard boxes and real Sonos drivers.

“Someone can tell you [a product is] cool, but that magic doesn’t happen until you can experience it yourself,” says Sonos senior marketing manager of culture Ivan Entchevitch. “We want people to come away and learn something they didn’t know before. You see people come in and just lose themselves like kids.”

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