NPD: Celebrity Endorsements Do Indeed Sell Headphones

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The ever-growing trend of celebrity-endorsed stereo headphones coming to market makes good business sense, according to The NPD Group.

The market research company’s new study, Headphones: Ownership and Application, states that endorsements are extremely/very important to nearly 30 percent of consumers when deciding what headphones to buy.

Music artist endorsements ranked highest among consumers purchasing headphones for less than $20 and more than $100, and sales of headphones more than $100 are growing, according to the firms Retail Tracking Service. Headphones priced $100 or more went from around 2 percent of the headphone market in 2009 to 3.5 percent of the market in 2010. Overall stereo headphone sales increased 17 percent in units and 30 percent in dollars in 2010.

“The headphone market has seen great unit and revenue growth as the market for portable audio continues to expand due to smartphone proliferation,” said Ross Rubin, industry analysis executive director at NPD. “Low barriers to entry are attracting many boutique brands, though, which are quickly creating a crowded field.”

When asked about a potential saturation point, Rubin said to TWICE, “Clearly, there’s still a relative minority of consumers that say celebrity endorsements are important to them.” But, he noted, there is still potential growth for “products that are marketing for older consumers or connoisseurs of different kinds of music. Most of the endorsements have been focused on hip-hop artists or pop artists, but for example, Monster has released its Miles Davis Tribute headphones. We may see more of that in terms of headphones marketed to consumers of different musical taste.”

According to the report, on average, consumers said they bought a new pair of headphones every 14 months, but teenagers reported buying new ones even more frequently. Forty-one percent of 13- to 17-year-olds bought new headphones within the past three months. Teenagers were almost twice as likely as the average consumer to say they plan to purchase new headphones in the next year.

When looking for new headphones for themselves, consumers said price, sound quality, and headphone type were the top three factors influencing their purchase.

“From the lightweight foam-padded headphones that accompanied the first Walkman to the iconic white ear buds that come with the latest iPhone, headphones have been as much of a fashion statement as an audio accessory,” said Rubin. “In particular, younger consumers are associating artists they admire with a premium portable audio experience.”

The study is based on a U.S. representative sample of more than 2,100 consumers from NPD’s online panel in January.

More information can be found on NPD’s website and blog:



— Additional reporting By Lisa Johnston


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