If the product is the marketing, where is the user’s place? The Devialet Case

It’s been a while since I wanted to address this question but didn’t took the time to do so.
As I was discussing  with Pierre Henri Samion and about the new Phantom by Devialet, I found out this was the perfect example.
Therefore I’ve asked him to write about his experience.
As he is a sound expert (he owns several recording studios, is a CMO for a soundbased start-up…) and a high level marketing professional, his point of view is very valuable.

The new Phantom speaker by Devialet is an audio masterpiece. So how come I got so angry at it so fast?
Audio is my passion, I just love listening and playing with sounds.  And mixing that passion – in different ways – with marketing has been my job for a few decades now.
I was lucky enough to be one of the few to hear Devialet’s Phantom speaker last December. I was so impressed that I ordered one immediately.  It was clear: I had to have this speaker asap.
When I plugged it in for the first time, I quickly realized that I couldn’t play any of my playlists from Spotify or Youtube, which infuriated me…

 

Phantom is a unique audio product


Do we still need to repeat that in 2015 the product is the marketing?
I hope not.  But just in case: what kind of marketing comes out of giants like Google, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook or Apple, other than having a great product and letting it do the talking ?
Phantom is an all-in-one device that includes an amplifier, a speaker and a streaming receiver, all packed in a bowling ball sized package.  Everything you need to play music is in one box: a Formula One version of the Jambox.
How does it sound?
Awesome, unbelievable.
Are there better speakers?
Yes of course, but you would have to give up several cubic meters of your living space and cough up a four-zero figure to cover the price for sure.  I did just that; so you can believe me!
In a nutshell, Phantom is a fantastic piece of audio engineering, cleverly designed to give an absolutely ground-breaking listening experience, which leaves the competition back in the Dark Ages.

 

But the user experience has been forgotten along the way

So what’s my problem here?
Well, using this product, I see no space for me, no consideration for my user experience.  Let me explain why.
The change in my music listening user experience has been considerable.
I’ve moved from vinyl, to CD, then to iTunes, wireless, to end up for now at Spotify.
Frankly, the only reason I would consider switching to another app is through the offer a new service that would seriously address the recommendation and curation side of the issue (Hey, Apple/Beats, I am ready for you!).
Going down this path has hugely improved my musical moments.  I am now only one tap away on my iPhone from listening to any song.  And you know what ?  It is so cool that I am not ready to go back for any reason.  I am a spoiled music lover and I like it!
So when I found out that the Phantom offers me no other choice than to use their poor streaming app to play music – that requires so much work from me, just to hear a song – I got angry, fast.
And don’t get me wrong here, I know that apps can get better over time. But this is not my point.  I don’t want a better Devialet app; I want to use my favorite apps: Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer … And be able to control the volume with my smartphone buttons.  That’s all I need.
Was it that difficult to satisfy me ?
Not really …  This already exists off the shelf; it’s called Apple Airplay.

 

This is a classic trap for tech companies

So why did Devialet take this route?  Here is my guess, let’s imagine the meeting:
– the tech team had a lot of of arguments to explain that this proprietary streaming app would allow to do it so much more than Apple: higher resolution, lower jitter, multi-room …
– and the marketing guys – probably obsessed with the success of Sonos – loved having a closed streaming ecosystem. If the user needs to expand his system, he has only one option: get a second Devialet.
But one chair was missing in that meeting and the most important person was absent: the user, to tell his side of the story, which probably would go along the lines of:
– you’re welcome to give me better sound, but never at the expense of ignoring the way I live my life.
– respect the ecosystems that I am part of.  You know the names of the big ones, ignoring them is not an option.
– you tell me that I have to suffer to be beautiful.  Sorry, I don’t want that. I want beauty without any pain.
– and don’t tell me I can hook up an Apple Airport Express to the optical input of the Phantom.  I know I can, but this not what I expect from a high end all-in
one system.

 

If you want to know what will take off, don’t look at the technology.  Look at the interface.

Avoiding such a typical brand-centric decision- that ignores the use cases and the ecosystems- is a very big challenge.  But this is the price to pay if you want to build a truly human brand, by taking a step towards users, and trying to see the world through their eyes.  The goal is to put the user perspective at the center of all decisions.  Talking with users can be very rewarding, because if they are sometimes ten times dumber than you thought, they also are often ten times smarter!

A good way to start:
– stop using Twitter to push self-congratulating posts about the brand, and instead spend time empathetically answering support requests, to engage in an open conversation with users.
– check what users say about you on the Internet and talk with them.
– a bit of human skin on your website is always a good signal. It’s not just about your tech, it’s about what I will do with it.

Please Devialet, stop looking at Sonos. You can do so much better than that! You can become a human luxury brand – which Sonos is not – if you save a seat for the user at the decision-making table and make him feel that you care.  A bespoke user experience is the key to new luxury.
What you do is rocket science, so please have a look at Elon Musk’s Tesla instead!
When I buy a Tesla – and this will happen one day – I know that I’ll find Google Maps on the dashboard right from the start.  Because they know it’s what I’ll want.

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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