How does the rapper 50 Cent describe his headphone company SMS Audio?
“It’s cool, because I’m cool, so that makes the whole thing cool.”
That may not sound like the most refined summation of a business. But the artist, whose legal name is Curtis Jackson, has succeeded in other businesses before, from VitaminWater (he made a reported $100 million when the company sold to Coca-Cola) to his G-Unit record label and clothing line (which also had a Reebok shoe deal). While many have jumped into the headphone space—with its storied low costs and high margins—and failed, SMS Audio (it stands for Studio Master Sound) is still here, after four years. How?
Brian Nohe, president of the company (Jackson is founder and CEO), thinks the key is brand partnerships. He uses Beats By Dre—certainly the better-known rapper-founded headphone brand—as a contrasting example. Beats has mainly used television ads, with artists and…
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