The Status Quo Isn't Enough: Sennheiser's Head of Global Marketing, Uwe Greunke on Audio, Pink Floyd, and Virtual Reality.

"Experiencing music is something so personal, so emotional! Being able to explore every sonic detail of your favorite song or having your hair stand on end because the music just sounds and feels so good – this is what good sound quality will be able to give you." -Uwe Greunke

Sennheiser is never satisfied with the status quo and always aims to deliver more. The brand has consistently provided it’s customers with stellar audio output and strives to introduce it’s patrons to a more intimate listening experience.

Recently, the company was given the opportunity to collaborate with Pink Floyd for the Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains Exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England. For this union, Sennheiser provided the audio for the showcase, but they also crafted The HD 1 Wireless edition celebrating The Pink Floyd Exhibition: ‘Their Mortal Remains’ in honor of the iconic group.

Since the company is constantly subverting industry norms to create cutting edge products, I needed to know more about how the corporation aims to continue this trend in the future. Uwe Greunke, Head of Global Marketing delves into consumer psychology, the Sennheiser credo, and virtual reality for this enlightening interview.

Photo: Sennheiser HD 1

All rights owned by Sennheiser worldwide unlimited. 

Prox: Do you think that the average consumer favors style and appeal over high end audio output? How is the company making it “cool” to be an audiophile?

Uwe: At Sennheiser, we’re focusing on both elements: great audio and an elegant design with quality materials. With Sennheiser you will probably never have a pair of pink headphones with plush ear pads!

When it comes to design, we’re more the sustainable, sophisticated type, to be honest. OK, decades ago we introduced a yellow ear pad HD 414 – but that’s another story.

The HD 1 series is an example of this approach: a sleek design, carefully selected materials and a no-compromise sound signature. 

As to your first question: I believe that consumers do value the exceptional experience that exceptional audio creates. While you may be attracted to a cool design in the first place, you will ultimately want to have the full sound experience.

Experiencing music is something so personal, so emotional! Being able to explore every sonic detail of your favorite song or having your hair stand on end because the music just sounds and feels so good – this is what good sound quality will be able to give you.

Prox: With the market and technology constantly changing, has it become more difficult to convince consumers of what quality sound actually is?

Uwe: The customer has more choices than ever and the pace of change has accelerated. But essentially, it depends on someone’s attitude to music and perhaps even to life in general. Do I just want to consume or do I want to enjoy fully? 

Maybe it’s also a bit about exploring and trying something new. We have found that as soon as someone puts aside their cheap in-ear phones – often the ones that came free with another device – and tries a good pair instead, they experience what I would call a sound revelation. But you need to take that first step and not be satisfied with the status quo. 

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Photo: Sennheiser AMBEO SMART HEADSET

All rights owned by Sennheiser

Prox: I’ve been going through a bit of a Virtual Reality phase lately. How important is auditory stimulation in an experience that claims to be fully immersive? Is it safe to say that Sennheiser is exploring possibilities with VR integration?

Uwe: 3D sound is in fact indispensable if you want to create a truly immersive experience, an experience that is to be as realistic as possible.

When mere stereo sound is combined with a 3D image, your brain will tell you: “That image is lying, there is no 3D, no room, no space.”

There will always be that feeling that something is wrong even if you cannot put your finger on it. Immersive 3D audio, on the other hand, creates a whole new level of user experience.

Sennheiser is not only exploring possibilities in this field but also providing creators with the tools but also, where needed, with expert advice to design 3D experiences. Our products and projects in this field bear the trademark “AMBEO”. For example, we have created and co-created impressive 3D audio installations; we developed the AMBEO VR Microphone as a convenient way of capturing three-dimensional audio; and we offer the AMBEO Music Blueprints, an educational website that explains how to record immersive music experiences using the so-called AMBEO Cube, the AMBEO VR Microphone or the Neumann KU 100 Dummy Head

Towards the end of the year, a consumer offering – the AMBEO SMART HEADSET – will become available, with the iOS version being launched first. These in-ear phones will enable everybody to record 3D sound with their smartphone. Fully immersive 3D sound that can be listened to via standard stereo headphones, sound that takes you right back to the magic moments of your life.  

Prox: The Pink Floyd Edition HD 1 is quite intriguing both aesthetically and conceptually. Could you walk us through the development of this collaboration and what working with such an iconic group says about Sennheiser?

Uwe: The full name of these headphones is “The HD 1 Wireless edition celebrating The Pink Floyd Exhibition: ‘Their Mortal Remains’". It’s quite a long name but it explains their origin very well.

These headphones were launched to commemorate Pink Floyd’s first ever retrospective, which is still on at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until October 1. It is truly a not-to-be-missed exhibition about a truly legendary band!

The retrospective is a treasure trove full of music, massive stage props, photographs, videos, and interviews. It also has band equipment, posters – you name it! Sennheiser is the official audio partner, and in the Performance Zone of the exhibition, you will find a fully immersive AMBEO mix of a performance of Comfortably Numb from a Live 8 concert.

During their career, Pink Floyd has made frequent use of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones, and when we proposed creating a special product for this exhibition, they agreed. 

Photo: COURTESY OF THE PINK FLOYD EXHIBITION: THEIR MORTAL REMAINS

Sennheiser

Prox: Please tell us something about yourself that we might not know that influences your work. 

Uwe: I have a background in digital (marketing) plus business consulting. In general, I’m convinced that marketing has to reset to where Meffert positioned it in the 80s. It’s not all about promotion or campaigns with funny creative work – even on a digital channel. It is the essence of understanding what the problem is that the customer is asking us to solve. What do we want to achieve to meet their individual needs and aspirations.

Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, business people, creatives or intellectuals?

Uwe: I’m passionate about the work of Paco Underhill and Clayton Christensen to really understand the driving forces behind the “customer requirements”. This is where really substantial marketing that goes beyond promotion starts to kick in and deliver real added value. Today, we have an access to customer voices to a degree that has never existed before. Across all kinds of digital channels – whether Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, you name it – we are able to harvest direct feedback. The challenge is to understand the underlying motives, which are not always that obvious. There’s an analytical step required to ask the right questions, to understand purchase behaviors. It’s still the good old business tools e.g. the BCG-matrix that can provide the necessary foundation to make the right choices and invest resources in an appropriate way.

Prox: What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Uwe: Salsa dancing, sailing on the river Elbe (near Hamburg) and helping my wife with her sheep ;-) !

Prox: Could you give some advice to people who may be interested in interning or working for the company?

Uwe: The perfect new team member should be hungry, should dare to challenge the status quo – at Sennheiser, we have never been satisfied with what has been achieved so far. They should be comfortable to walk new paths, should possess cross-industry expertise and should leverage the opportunities that modern (software) technologies bring.

Prox: Would you like to give us any information on upcoming projects and releases?

Uwe: Without revealing too much, I can say that we will continue to drive our range of AMBEO 3D audio products. 3D immersive audio is the next big thing; we actually like to compare it with the move from mono to stereo. The intensity of the music experience is something you will not want to miss once you have experienced it. We have renowned mix engineers saying that, and we have consumers saying that. It’s enveloping, natural and absolutely fascinating.

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