Launched in 2016, boAt has become a well-recalled and highly celebrated startup brand in a short span of 6 years. Businesswise too, boAt is sailing pretty in the market – leading the Indian wearables market with a 34.3% market share in 2022, growing at a 76.6% y-o-y rate.¹
boAt’s rise to this success has not been by accident.
In a market cluttered by a host of players- ranging from aspirational global brands to a range of undifferentiated, commoditized products selling at a throw-away price, boAt clearly stands out.
Let’s see how.
Understanding the consumer landscape
There is an unwritten class system in the world of brand marketing. Brands are conveniently classified as ‘mass’, ‘premium’, ‘prestige,’ ‘luxury’, and a myriad collection of subsegments in between.
In this world of brand classes, consumers with higher purchase capacity are ‘entitled’ to a better brand experience (quality, warranty, customer service, quick complaint resolution etc.).
However, this is being challenged today.
The new age digital native consumers demand the best of both worlds – better quality AND affordability, value AND drool worthiness. And in the world of sound gadgets, this same consumer was demanding high-quality products that were both bragworthy and affordable.
The trouble was, no one was really catering to them.
During his stint at JBL, where he was a sales director, Aman recognized the changing consumer trends in the sound gadget space and decided to capitalize on it. This is when he met his co-founder, Sameer Mehta (through a mutual friend), another tech and audio enthusiast. Sameer, with his expertise in operations and back end-processes, perfectly complemented Aman, who had a great pulse of the market. Together, their combination became a powerful force.
Listening to the consumers
boAt’s core consumer catchment is in the early 20s to mid 30s age bracket – savvy consumers who seek trendy and smart gadgets that help them maximize features within their price limit.
They research their product choices heavily, looking to aggregate information from a variety of sources, like reviews, recommendations, influencer opinions, product spec comparisons, etc.
They also love to share their discoveries to garner peer recognition. Their adoption of a brand or its products is often instrumental in bringing it into the mainstream.
boAt’s success lay in deeply understanding these consumers, staying on top of the trends that impacted them, and unearthing strong consumer insights that governed their behavior.
The consumers that boAt targets view gadgets as a form of self-expression that enhances their overall personality. And gadgets being a passion point for them, they not only want to consistently remain on top of latest trends and features but also upgrade from time to time. But this is clearly not possible with high-end, expensive brands.
And that’s where boAt came in with its promise to combine passion with practicality – offering stylish, well-designed, feature-rich products at compelling price points and creating an aspirational world for its consumers.
Another key observation about these consumers, which governed the early technical product innovation choices of boAt, was the fact that typical Indian consumers enjoy high bass in their music. Due to cultural and regional music influences, the punchy, rhythmic beats of Indian music is complemented best by high bass, so boAt took care to optimize their audio products for bass.
This deep understanding of target consumers and their needs has been critical to boAt’s growth strategy.
Getting the fundamentals right
1. A brand identity that resonates with the consumers
The name boAt, along with its distinctive logo is unique and catchy. The imaginative name cues signals of getting lost in the world of music and going on one’s own journey in step with the rhythm, which is a feeling all music lovers relate to.
And this naming philosophy also extends to individual products. For instance, boAt’s lineup of wireless earbuds is named ‘Airdopes’, a clear use of the youth lingo ‘dope’ to refer to uber cool ideas or products. Similar thought has gone into naming their ‘Stone’ speaker series and ‘Rockerz’ over-ear headphones.
The fun, irreverent rebel-like tone of voice is quite consistent across brand touchpoints and nicely trickles down from its product names to content.
boAt has a maximalist design philosophy, with an explosion of brand colours supporting content which is written in the lingo of its target consumer.
2. boAtheads – a community that grooves to the same beat
boAt has carefully nurtured a community-feel around its products. For instance, its consumers are called boAtheads (the brand claims there are 3 mn boAtheads now²).
In a category where word-of-mouth recommendation and user reviews play a huge role in driving adoption, giving a common lingo to users and making them feel like they are part of a ‘Tribe’ can give a real boost to the brand.
3. Letting the product sing the brand tune
boAt set sail with a product that showed how well they understood their consumer.
For instance, expensive yet fragile iPhone charging cables had been a long-standing pain point of consumers. boAt addressed this with one of its initial offerings- sturdy iPhone charging cables made with a durable material that did not twist into loops or break easily. This caught the attention of its target consumer and was a runaway hit.
boAt then followed it up with its range of audio products.
Since these consumers love to flaunt and evangelize their product choices, boAt approached the category with a fashion + lifestyle lens, designing its products (style, color, shape etc.) in a way that made it easier for its consumers to flaunt them as fashion accessories, thus generating organic word of mouth. It is not uncommon to see youngsters wearing clearly identifiable, colorful boAt products in public spaces. This natural, organic virality has really helped the brand.
When it comes to gadgets, unboxing has become a big moment of truth and boAt is fully cognizant of that. Hence it has added small touches that enhance its unboxing experience.
From a trendily designed packaging to a welcome note that invites users to join the boAthead community, the 1-year warranty (that is generally not available at this price point) to the free boAthead stickers that come along with each product, boAt gives its users a distinct unboxing experience.
4. Product strategy that hits all the right notes
boAt clearly wants to be more than just a sound gadget brand. It seeks to become a lifestyle brand that caters to multiple consumer passion points while still maintaining its distinctive iconoclastic imagery. The brand’s foray into smartwatches is a proof of this.
5. Marketing strategy that creates a beautiful symphony
From the outset, boAt’s marketing approach used a 360-degree communication strategy that was uniquely designed to reflect the brand’s personality. This resulted in marketing communication choices across platforms that were uniquely designed to appeal to boAt’s consumers.
a) Multi celebrity endorsements
This is perhaps where boAt displayed the most innovative approach to marketing communications.
boAt pioneered a multi celebrity brand endorsement model that hinged on taking bets on rising talents in the fields of entertainment, cricket, and music (key passion points of its target consumer segment). boAt took a punt on rising stars like Hardik Pandya, Kiara Advani, and Kartik Aryan before they became the household names they are today.
Betting on a celebrity before he or she becomes a household name is a risky proposition. boAt needs to be given credit for its intuition in identifying and betting on promising talent.
By bringing on-board a host of young, high-potential talent from different fields, boAt positioned itself as a dynamic and youthful player- a David among the Goliaths that brought a disruptive blend of style, price, features and quality in a space dominated by expensive legacy brands.
boAt’s success in the wearables market mirrored the success of these celebs, making it a curious and interesting parallel journey.
b) Social Media
In keeping with the media consumption habits of its key target segment, boAt’s marketing budget is almost exclusively digital.
From 2018 onwards, boAt has tried to make use of IPL as a springboard to activate its digital presence. From being the official audio partner of 2 IPL teams in 2018 to currently being the audio partner to four, boAt has consistently leveraged its association with India’s most salient sporting event.
The interesting aspect about boAt’s marketing strategy is that they are not just limited to tried and tested properties like IPL. True to its disruptor credentials, boAt doesn’t shy away from trying out what is new and trending in the marketing space.
For instance, boAt was also the first Indian wearables brand to host a K-Pop concert in the Metaverse.
boAt has also partnered with India’s first meta influencer KYRA to introduce a new range of Rockerz headphones.
Regardless of the outcome, moves like these reflect boAt’s openness to experiment and try new things that are still on the fringes of innovation.
c) Brand Collaborations
In yet another effort to appeal to its target segment, boAt has partnered with brands that enjoy support and patronage by its target consumers. These partnerships were carefully selected to maximize the synergy with codes of fashion and lifestyle that boAt wants to establish.
For instance, boAt partnered with celebrated designer Masaba to create a range of headsets. boAt also partnered with the popular beer brand Bira to launch ‘BOOM’, a limited edition lineup of headphones and Bluetooth speakers.
The brand has also joined hands recently with Cult.Fit to launch a new initiative called ‘Fitness Xtended’ that allows boAt’s smart wearables owners to access 6 week at home workout programmes from Cult.Fit.
The masterstroke of boAt’s brand collaborations was their tie up with Lakme Fashion Week where models walked the ramp wearing boAt audio devices. This was not just a first in the category, but it was also organized during the very early days of boat. Clearly, a maverick move that signaled the brand’s ambition to establish itself as a youth fashion icon.
d) Aman’s Shark Tank appearance
Aman turbocharged boAt’s national awareness with his appearance on the Indian version of the popular TV show, Shark Tank. He brought his charm, enthusiasm, and authentic self to the show, endearing himself to the audience and in the process, boAt as well. The show did a great job of creating a perception of boAt as one of the poster boys of the blooming Indian startup scene, thereby greatly helping the brand gather earned media. The various memes that cropped up with Aman in them also helped to establish a “cool, with-it” image for boAt, which is exactly in line with their target audience.
In Summary – the final notes
While boAt has experienced great success so far, as it expands its footprint, the brand might also face some challenges.
Unlike audio tech, wearable tech like smart watches is a category that requires a seamless blend of both hardware as well as software. boAt has proven its capability in the hardware side with its audio tech, but the software for wearable tech could be more challenging to master.
boAt is also planning to shift close to 50% of its production to India in a JV with contract electronics manufacturer Dixon Technologies³. boAt has so far remained a lean operation by outsourcing manufacturing and focusing primarily on product design and brand building. This move will force boAt to divert some of its attention to managing the increased complexities of operations. It remains to be seen how well boAt manages it.
In order to fast-track its growth, boAt will eventually have to strengthen its offline play considerably. Currently, only 15% of its total sales come from offline⁴, “We were a late entrant [to smartwatches], and focused only on the Rs 2,000-3,000 price point with a limited portfolio. We also didn’t have a strong enough offline presence for the smartwatch category,” said Vivek Gambhir during an interview⁵.
Having said that, boAt’s success story plus its innovative product and pricing strategy have definitely disrupted the category.
In fact, the brand also forced established global players to introduce affordable product lineups in India.
Even Harvard has acknowledged boAt’s success, by creating a case study on boAt.
In a category with a high potential to devolve into a race to the bottom on pricing and discounts, boAt has managed to create a brand for itself by understanding its consumer thoroughly and creating a signature user experience for them across all touchpoints.