By ANNA PRIOR
So much for those little white earbuds. Now there's a new audiophile accessory that suddenly seems to be everywhere you look: Beats by Dre headphones. (You can't miss them -- they have the signature "b" on the ear caps.) The phenomenon is the brainchild of Dr. Dre (born Andre Young), a Grammy-winning rapper and producer who introduced the world to hip-hop stars like Snoop Dog and Eminem. Dre, who created Beats Electronics with Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine, won't comment on his personal investment in the company, but Beats stakeholders recently became $309 million richer, when cell phone maker HTC bought a 51 percent share in the outfit.
Some say Beats has been a personal-electronics game changer, having tapped into the demand for high-fidelity yet stylish headphones and helped the sales of high-end earphones more than double last year. Still, some analysts say the company's savviest move was to expand beyond headphones; it also makes speakers that can be found in cars and computers and is now looking at getting into growing tech segments like tablets and mobile phones.
You don't need to be a rap star to succeed in consumer tech. Experts say people can learn from Beats' blend of shrewd marketing and a diverse product line, which makes a company attractive to deep-pocketed suitors. To get there, pros suggest starting with a single high-profile product to build name recognition. "There's always an opportunity to franchise that name," says Stephen Baker, VP of industry analysis for research firm the NPD Group.