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(San Francisco, CA) - My introduction to French audio brand and startup Devialet happened when Jean-Philippe Thiellay, General Director of the Opéra de Paris, posted an article on LinkedIn last summer. The piece, from the French business journal Challenges, detailed the announcement of a 10-year co-branding partnership between Devialet and Opéra de Paris, including the September 2017 arrival of a Devialet retail boutique and "sound experience" inside the company's opulent Garnier house. My initial skepticism around a luxury retail partner located in an opera house environment was soon replaced by excitement (you'll soon see why).
Devialet, which counts President Emmanuel Macron and will.i.am as super fans, and Android founder Andy Rubin, Jay-Z's Roc Nation, Renault, and Foxconn as high profile Series C investors, wanted to partner with Opéra de Paris for specific reasons. Per the Devialet website, the brand recognized a "shared vision of excellence" as well as the company's "strong ties to France's musical and historical heritage," all perfectly on brand for this French audio startup looking to make an audacious, go big move with a distinguished legacy brand.
Pièce de Résistance
This co-branding partnership is about product, experience, and storytelling. The Gold Phantom speaker (priced at $3,995.00) already comes with a fervent audiophile fanbase, its "Hear the Unheard" experience detailed by Fortune Magazine: "(A) wireless speaker that claims digitally powered, analog-grade sound. A frequency response of 14Hz to 27kHz (far outside the range of the human ear), 4,500W of power, and a maximum volume level of 108dB (read: extremely loud) combine to capture details that are indiscernible on lower-end speakers, from a musician’s breath between notes to a subtle drumbeat in the background." Watch the incredibly convincing (and delightful) fan reaction videos on YouTube.
As mentioned, Gold Phantom Opéra de Paris Devialet speakers are showcased in a sound experience room at the Garnier house in Paris. Once inside, visitors encounter 18 speakers mimicking an orchestra in different musical styles. Visitors are also free to purchase these one-of-a-kind, co-branded Gold Phantoms, which are hand-decorated with the Opéra de Paris' signature gold leaf and Opéra National de Paris logo, as well as gilded in "moongold, a precious and stainless palladium-yellow gold alloy." But wait. There's a lot more. These operatic Gold Phantoms live stream all Opéra de Paris performances from the company's Garnier and Bastille houses, creating a live listening experience unlike any other on the planet. For many opera fans (this one included), SiriusXM from the Met may suddenly seem like scratchy AM radio.
Why It Works Both Ways
In Bloomberg, Thiellay indicated that this co-brand is an ideal and novel way for Opéra de Paris to "to reinvent itself and open up to a changing world," further stating that the company is "convinced (that) behind each opera aficionado there is (also) a geek...we’re seeking more tech partnerships.” Devialet's CEO Quentin Sannié took a risk and may have won big. From Fortune Magazine: "The idea of setting up shop in the Opéra, a very traditional, nearly 350-year-old institution, wasn’t even conceivable. But we’re driven by the impossible, so we pitched them the idea. Charles Garnier was a maverick, a relatively unknown architect who created the most extravagant and innovative monuments of the 19th century—we could relate to his ambition.” Indeed!
An obviously beautiful co-brand for both parties, the audacity and innovation of a home-grown startup appears to be critically meeting the needs of a distinguished legacy brand. And, the legacy brand is in turn introducing, elevating, and, in effect, distributing this co-branded technology, storytelling and real-world, site-specific brand experience to a targeted, discerning audience. Opera is normally a real-time experience and ephemeral. Through Devialet, Opéra de Paris becomes a tangible, luxury product. And yet, Devialet products (Opéra de Paris-branded or not) are still within the reach of consumers around the world. Devialet's technology has the potential to open doors for this opera and classical music institution across business development, audience development, brand storytelling, brand identity, and, hopefully, with return on investment.
If your business is considering co-branding with another business, is it truly win-win? Does it elevate both brands in innovative and unique ways that aren't possible as stand-alone businesses? How long should this agreement last? Is there ROI? Marketing ROI? Are company principles - on both sides - able to convincingly justify the brilliant 'why' behind a potential co-brand in less than 100 words?
CONTACT BSPOKE to discuss what types of co-branding partnerships are most appropriate for your business, and how co-branding might supercharge your own brand story and strategy with return on investment.
Originally published via LinkedIn on March 27, 2018.
BrandStoryNow is a marketing training experience for professionals, founders, and small business owners Presented by James Mowdy, founder of BSPOKE LLC, with guest collaborators and presenters.