With Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) recent acquisition of premium headphone maker Beats Electronics, the company also brought two new executives to its team. Their official titles? Jimmy and Dre. To get such laid-back titles at the world's most valuable publicly traded company, you have to have some serious status. By my count, this is the first time Apple has ever handed out such unique titles. And rapper, songwriter, record producer, film director, ... (pausing for a breath) ... entrepreneur, and fashion designer Kayne West apparently agrees with me: The Beats co-founders are, indeed, cool -- and Apple wants in on it, says West.
West weighs in on the Beats deal
West showed up at ad agency Translation's seminar this week as a surprise guest. Known for his love of Steve Jobs and Apple products, West spoke up on why he thinks Apple bought Beats Electronics and, subsequently, brought in co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre as executives.
The deal, according to West (via AdWeek), was heavily influenced by the way Samsung instantly achieved greater cultural relevance when it reached out to Jay Z to collaborate on giving away 1 million early copies of the rapper's new album. The Beats acquisition, West says, will similarly help reconnect Apple with modern culture.
"There would have been no Beats deal without the Samsung deal," West explained. "It showed the No. 1 company the importance of connecting with culture."
Translation CEO Steve Stoute seemed to agree.
Apple was so profound at making great products in great design language. And yet they found themselves culturally susceptible to another brand whose products weren't necessarily as great at that time. Samsung used culture as a way to get into the conversation. And that's why the Apple/Beats deal makes sense. Whatever Samsung is doing culturally, Apple has the 800-pound gorilla in Beats and Jimmy and Dre.
A necessary move
There have been signs Apple was losing touch with culture. The company went through an incredible dry spell of heavily criticized TV ads. It's short-lived Genius ads, which seemed to portray Apple customers as unintelligent and corny, marked one of Apple's least cool moments ever.
But the loss of cool-factor may be even more evident in the mediocre success of iTunes Radio. A recent report from Buzzfeed, citing two Apple sources, says the iTunes team "was plagued by shortsighted management who ignored competitors while engineers used other streaming products rather than Apple's."
"The management in particular were pretty much tone-deaf in what Spotify was and that's why they're panicking now," the source said. "They didn't understand how Spotify worked, which is why they thought iTunes Radio would be a Spotify killer." Other managers referred to Pandora as a nonthreatening "dead company" because of its lack of revenue.
But with the addition of Beats, its streaming service, and (most importantly) Jimmy and Dre, Apple may be able to find its way back to a the cool factor that catapulted Apple to the top of the music industry when it launched the iPod.