The sound of silence

How much noise is too much noise? Why tech specs are not the answer.


Types into Google: “Best headphones for….”

Google Responds:  “…Running, noise cancelling, commuting, blocking out the neighbours, wearing in the office.”

Interesting that the search prompts and review articles that appear when looking for headphones all focus on blocking out sound, not on sound quality or technical specifications. The irony isn’t lost on me that the majority of consumers shopping for headphones are focused on lack of sound rather than the quality of sound.

In the last blog in our Sound Series, Simon shared his experience from a recent skiing holiday and the ‘muzak’ that accompanied every moment of his day – from the chairlift to the dancefloor, he was surrounded by sound. Now, I’m a self-proclaimed music lover, audiophile, and headphone collector but even I have had a desire recently to block out the noise, and I didn’t have to dig very far to find others like me.

In a world of tech overload, digital burnout, and decision fatigue there has been a global rise in digital detoxes, screen management, and tech abstinence. In the last year, we have seen a re-emergence of dumb phones, the resurgence of tech-free spaces, and full-on digital detox holidays (@Unplugged has always looked particularly appealing to me!). And these needs aren’t just physical either, consumers are increasingly looking to tech brands to help them navigate their desire to switch off, from screen-management apps to noise-cancelling headphones.

When it comes to noise cancelling though, shoppers aren’t interested in how it works, they want to know the benefit. They want to know how much train noise are they still going to have to hear, how far away they need to stand to really block out that noisy colleague, and whether are they still going to hear the drone of the plane engine when flying long haul.

Just like sound quality, noise cancelling has become a ubiquitous need for many, but trying to compete through spec-led messaging isn’t going to cut through, and brands getting caught up in a tech spec race are going to lose out. Have you asked yourself, or your innovation team recently, what’s the consumer benefit here and how can we talk about it?

By: Sam Barton

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