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Despite creating fantastic products and winning several Red Dot design awards in the process, BOSE isn’t often seen as a cool company.
Rarely are its designs mentioned in the same breath as Apple, or its headphones alongside young upstarts like beats.
Despite this slight lack of street cred, Bose remains one of the strongest brands in audio, so I thought I’d check out its content to see how it fares against the competition...
Let’s start with the main site. Bose is based in based in Framingham, Massachusetts, so for the purposes of this article I’ve looked at both the US site, and my local UK version.
The US version is a straightforward ecommerce affair. There’s a nice carousel, and a huge range of information on each products.
If anything too much, with each page acting as a mini-site in it's own right, things can get confusing and it's difficult for any real up or cross-selling to happen. Something that also appears on the international sites:
I suspect this is all part of Bose’s strategy. By the time you arrive on site, you should be ready to buy.
Think of the storytelling that goes into the print ads. That’s unfortunately missing here, though not because it’s been forgotten. This is a sales portal, pure and simple.
However, it could use a spring-clean, as with so many options on offer it’s a little cluttered, with huge dropdowns and little space, ironic when you consider the company’s core USP.
Over on the UK site, things get a little more interesting with some lovely images and the addition of a blog.
I expected plenty of well-woven words to live here, expounding on the various types of sonic luxury I could expect, but it’s actually a Tumblr-esque experience, full of all sorts of interesting content.
There’s a selection of interesting videos on unusual music scenes around the world (I particularly enjoyed this example below, on Indian dance music), combined with some nice ‘music maps’, infographics full of all sorts of fun facts and marvellous ironies.
Did you know that the further north you go, the less popular Arctic Monkey’s become? Or indeed that France doesn’t like Bastille?
It’s capped off with interviews with upcoming artists and some well thought-out Spotify playlists.
It’s clear that Bose has thought hard about this content, tying it into its core brand values. Bose wants to be seen as the music connoisseur’s choice, and has worked hard here to underline its muso credentials.
Once again, the only thing that lets this down is the implementation.
The ecommerce aspects of the site are fine, if a little busy, but here some room to breathe would really benefit the user, and give some top-notch content the chance to really impress.
Meanwhile the blog is crammed into an iFrame which cuts of the ends of videos and has a rather clunky navigation, which saw me veering between thoroughly engaged and… thoroughly enraged.
Taking things off-site, let’s start with Facebook, where the company has garnered an impressive 2.1m fans.
Unfortunately the content here is a little limited, and engagement isn’t huge as a result (Comments from me about Transformers The Movie not withstanding – sorry Bose).
Bose is still promoting its #ListenForYourself campaign, and is posting every day, but there’s a lack of sparkle and personality to the posts, which aren’t always optimised properly.
A real shame as there is some stunning product photography, and it’s a surprise that Bose isn’t doing more to drive clickthrough as so many of these posts link back to product purchase pages.
Given that the business recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, it is missing a trick by not utilising the timeline fully, as surely there are plenty of pictures of historic designs doing the rounds?
Overall it feels as though the channel has been stuck on to the end of the marketing process with little real thought.
Things are a little better on Twitter, there’s plenty of quality video being shared, along with images and links to third party content and native ads on platforms like Gawker.
There’s also a healthy attempt at interaction with many of the 96,800 followers, although again it’s somewhat lacking in personality.
Bose also maintains a busy customer service account at @Boseservice, with almost 20,000 followers and a solid line in replies and interaction. Although in many cases it is directing users to call the service centre, it’s clear that this is an important channel and is taken seriously.
Video features prominently across all of Bose’s channels, so it makes sense for them to be focussing on YouTube. As such, there’s an optimised channel homepage with a carousel of featured videos.
I did notice a slight UX issue when clicking through from Twitter, as you are automatically bought to this page, rather than the actual video you are looking for, which can be rather annoying.
That said, the content on display is very good (I especially enjoyed discovering that Poison’s Rikki Rocket is slowly morphing into a basset hound), with some key movers and shakers keen to talk about their respective music scenes.
Once you get past this gateway, there’s also a wealth of more traditional stuff on offer, including product overviews, set-up walkthroughs and more.
If anything, there’s a little too much material here, which is fine if YouTube is being used as a content store, but here there is confusion over whether this is a channel for engagement or not.
Finally I wanted to highlight Bose’s recent standalone collaboration with Spotify: Bose art of sound.
It’s a lovely page, hosting a thoroughly interesting doc about Joel Hamilton, a producer and engineer who’s worked with everyone from Tom Waits to The Black keys.
There’s a selection of curated playlists and a rather neat 'playlist enhancer' – simply drag n’ drop an existing playlist from your Spotify, and this will pad it out with a selection of related tunes.
There’s also a CTA urging you to head to a landing page designed to sell earbuds:
While it’s tone doesn’t match the source, it does have a better layout than most of the site product pages, and at least attempts to showcase use and link the product to the user.
Great content needs commitment
Bose have some fantastic content, but it seems that there is a larger problem here: Bose doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be.
Earlier I mentioned Beats as a competitor. Despite the higher media awareness Beats maintains, Bose is clearly the more high-end, luxury product here, but is struggling to match this with the vibe it's using to push headphones at a younger market.
It does beg the question – should Bose really be targeting this demographic at all, or would it be better served remaining an aspirational ‘grown-up’ product?
It’s a genuine shame as the products and content are both excellent, but are being poorly represented by a muddled strategy. With a little work and a willingness to commit more fully to the content, Bose could easily be leading the charge for content marketing.