Creativity 50

Creativity 50 2014: Dr. Dre and Omar Johnson

Founder and CMO, Beats Electronics

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How do executives at Beats by Dre keep their fingers on the pulse of the market? They shop.

Chief Marketing Officer Omar Johnson strolls through malls to watch how people try headphones, how they listen to music. Jimmy Iovine does too. The brand has exploited the music industry ties of Interscope's Mr. Iovine and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre, to gain the affection of consumers -- and its new parent, Apple. Mr. Johnson, a former Nike marketer, has also assembled an army of faithful ambassadors from the sports world to create some of the most buzzed-about marketing of the past year.

Some athletes, Mr. Johnson said, will call him up to request tailored Beats gear before a game. In its creative approach, the company thinks of itself not as an arbiter of popular culture, but as its barometer. "We always talk about this brand moving at the speed of culture," Mr. Johnson said.

What is your definition of creativity? How would you describe your creative process?

Mr. Johnson: It's getting out of the way of good ideas. I watch and I listen to amazing ideas every day. My creative process is really simple: I get out into the world. I turn on the radio. Most importantly, what I love to do is shop. You'll typically find all your insights right in front of you.

What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Mr. Johnson: The World Cup. What does a headphone company do to get into the games? Every single frame you saw in that commercial was inspired by an athlete's story.

What is your advice for anyone to get out of a creative rut?

Mr. Johnson: Don't let yourself get in the way of good ideas. If you don't have more great ideas than you execute, then you probably haven't found your dream job. You keep going.

You rely heavily on celebrities in your marketing. How do you make sure that doesn't backfire?

You can't be the only voice in the room. You've got to bring in an expert. Don't look at the boundaries. Don't talk yourself out of it. Find ways to get it done.

Click here to see more of the 2014 Creativity 50