For Marketing Success, Leverage Your Ignorance Says Marketing Genius Omar Johnson

If you own a pair of Beats headphones, you were probably inspired by the marketing of Omar Johnson. Under his direction, Omar’s diverse team of marketers created viral marketing campaigns like “Straight Outta Somewhere” and “Powerbeats starring LeBron James” that spawned social media madness and sold millions of Beats headphones. Within four years, Beats went from a 20 million business to 2 billion in revenue and was later sold to Apple for 3 billion dollars. 


After helping turn Beats into one of the most coveted headphones of athletes and celebrities around the globe, Omar says there were three keys to his success: create diverse teams, leverage ignorance, and listen with offense.


Create Diverse Teams

The key to massive marketing success is to build diverse teams. Omar explained if you walked into Times Square and randomly picked 100 people, they would look like one of his marketing teams. His teams were 45% male, 55% female, young, old, multi-racial, and with all styles of hair color and length. 


Diverse teams come up with diverse ideas. They are able to bring different points of view. These teams helped Omar market Beats headphones not just as music listening devices, but also as noise-blocking devices, fashion accessories, and a way to express identity.


Leverage Your Ignorance

You don’t need to know everything if you can leverage your ignorance. Omar says he doesn’t know what cool is—but he could find out in five phone calls. The days of a marketing boss knowing everything and coming up with the best ideas are over. Omar says it’s the job of a marketing leader to leverage their ignorance. 


By leveraging your own ignorance, it allows your diverse teams to come up with the next big idea. Notably, The Straight Outta Somewhere campaign came from a few members of his diverse team who understood that place and identity were important to everyone. The Straight Outta Somewhere campaign went viral, helping drive the success of the film Straight Outta Compton.


Listen With Offense

It’s the job of the head of marketing to listen to their teams more and talk less. The key, Omar says, is to listen with offense. Instead of dominating the room with your own ideas, solicit ideas from everywhere: your customers, consumers, team, or people on the street.


While running Beats, Omar once asked a woman on the street what she was listening to with her headphones. He was surprised to learn the woman wasn’t listening to anything. Instead, the woman was wearing the headphones so people wouldn’t bother her. By getting ideas from people on the street, Beats was able to market their headphones successfully to women.


If you’re looking for success in marketing, think beyond data collection. Marketing is about people. So create diverse teams that look like your consumers, leverage your ignorance to get your teams’ best ideas, and listen with offense to get ideas from everywhere.


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