B&O aI have come to accept that there are things my brain will never grasp. E=mc2 for example. American football comes to mind. Anything said by an engineer. But the big one is fashion; it makes no sense to me at all. Why does a perfectly good jacket that everyone loved five years ago so upset people now? What is it with haircuts these days? Why do beautiful people pay so much for tapas? Fashion makes about as much sense to me as a Luis Buñuel movie.

I’ve always felt safe in hi fi. There have been few fashionista forays into hi fi. Maybe the retro thing, which generated the turntable thing, but if these are examples of fashion then it’s fashion that has outlived the conventional fashion timescale by long enough to rule it out of being fashionable.

But I fear B&O’s latest product publicity shots may be fashion wedging its way into my safe haven. (Aside; I suspect it is the fashion these days to call the company Bang and Olufsen, which I refuse to do.) B&O has always made beautiful equipment. Now, it seems, they are getting into beautiful people.

Look at the publicity shots it has supplied to show off ‘the Classic and the Clash’, its (I quote) “seasonal collection of speakers and headphones”. Let me quote further: “Drawing inspiration from the changing seasons, the latest releases come in calm tan, a classic and confident brown, and a fresh but forceful pink.”

B&O bPink is forceful? Can’t wait for the new season police uniforms.

The first thing I noted about B&O’s new seasonal collection, which celebrates the colours of autumn, is that it reached our shores just in time for spring. But that’s our fault, how silly we are living in the southern hemisphere when everything that’s happening is happening north of the equator. Folk up there don’t even know we exist.

But the photography; OMG. By convention publicity pictures show people who are happy, sometimes overjoyed, to be using the products in question. They turn a dial with delight, they take a call with boundless joy, they listen and are rewarded such that they cannot help but express their pleasure in a highly visible manner, inviting all to share their happiness. Unless the product costs more than $25,000, in which case they look discerning.

Now B&O has brought the age of the disinterested, disconnected, bored-to-snorts catwalk supermodel to audio. Look at the lady in the brown dress. She’s holding a pair of expensive headphones much as one would hold a three-day-dead fish prior to insertion in a rubbish bin. Ideally a neighbours.

And why, when joined by the guy in the tan suit who is holding the Bluetooth speaker so strategically, does she clasp her headphones behind her back? Is she trying to hide them from him because he won’t be impressed – he looks like a hard guy to impress – or is she afraid he’s going to grab her bum?

B&O cWhen these two are joined in a group hug (no arms allowed) by the shorter androgynous one who has flipped a B&O speaker over his/her shoulder rakishly, brown lady continues to listen to her music without the slightest hint of whether she likes it or hates it (maybe it’s Diana Krall) while suit guy has at least had the manners to remove his buds so he can listen for any pearls of wisdom the androgynous one may wish to impart. This assumes he/she is not a vapid idiot who votes for the candidate with the nicest clothes, but only if he/she is able to struggle out of bed before polls close.

Having survived a tough, hard core marketing environment for many years (automotive – about the toughest, hardest core marketing environment there is) I would ask you, the folk with the money, the acid-test questions: Do these pictures make you want to visit your nearest B&O shop? Do you aspire to be like any of these people? When you recall these pictures will you remember what they were advertising? If you are a hi fi dealer I shall ask a further question: How many customers will brown lady bring into your store?

I raise this matter partly because I am not good at tolerating foolishness, but mainly because the best marketing picture I have ever seen was selling audio and it’s sad to see this heritage sliding to the dogs. That picture made up an ad for Maxell tape cassettes. Yep, that’s how old it is. You know the one; a guy semi recumbent in an armchair while a speaker (I suspect a JBL L100) blasts him, his hair, his tie, his cocktail and his lampshade into the weeds.

It sold a heap of Maxell cassettes. I know this because I’m the guy who bought them.

Published December 2019.


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