What’s in a Naim? The incredible story of Naim Audio
Great branding is all about standing out from the crowd.
Some companies achieve this differentiation with exceptional customer service. Others do it by delivering a product unlike anything else in the marketplace. Naim Audio has spent more than 40 years building a reputation as a brand that produces remarkable high-end audio solutions.
Combining premium products with a niche target audience, Naim Audio has accomplished incredible things as a quintessentially British brand. Of course, like many companies with histories that span across the decades, Naim audio has seen some transformations over the years.
Before the company adjusted its offering with a focus on lifestyle, Naim was a highly-commended audio electronics company popular with middle-aged audiophiles. While Naim Audio’s branding was effective in this area, the company struggled to expand its consumer base in a world where lower-cost electronics like Sony and Denon were available.
The experts at Naim Audio knew they needed to evolve their brand, image, and profile to thrive in the current marketplace and appeal to the growing smartphone generation. Maintaining its focus on design and high-quality, the firm brought its attention into the new world, combined with funky new branding, and incredible promotional partnerships.
This is the story of Naim Audio, and what you can learn from this quintessentially British brand.
Introducing Naim Audio: A history of Naim
Naim Audio began almost 50 years ago, in 1969.
As most branding success stories do, it all started with an ambitious founder, Julian Vereker MBE.
Julian was an entrepreneur, self-taught engineer, and a racing car driver with an overwhelming passion for music. Many stories about Naim Audio talk about the days Julian spent in Salisbury, listening to music and recording his friends playing live. Unfortunately, when Vereker got those recordings back home, he was often unsatisfied with the quality of his speakers, and how well they could recreate the sounds, he heard in person.
Julian felt that sub-par audio wasn’t good enough anymore, and he decided to design his own speakers and amplifiers instead – ignoring the wisdom of engineers that had come before him. Fortunately, the experimentation paid off, and by 1972, Julian had won a contract to supply audio equipment to a start-up studio, Capital Radio.
In 1973, Naim Audio officially came to life, with an incorporated company lead by Julian and his co-founder Shirley Clarke. The history of Naim Audio branding began in Salisbury, where demonstration and manufacturing facilities combined into a small, but efficient tech shop.
Like all great companies, Naim Audio’s USP was built around one key ingredient: passion. The business didn’t just want to compete with the other audio engineers and Hi-Fi creators on the market at the time. Julian wanted to create something entirely new with his company – a business dedicated to the quest for the best possible sound quality.
Four decades later, and Naim Audio still bases its branding around this vital mission. Though the image might have changed, and the audience for Naim products is more extensive than it was in the 1960s, there’s a vision at the heart of Naim Audio branding. This quintessentially British company ignores things like price points and flashy marketing, to focus entirely on the quality of sound that its customers crave.
This singular focus means that Naim is still leading the pack for audio quality today, almost 20 years after their founder sadly passed away in 2000.
Making sound waves: How the Naim Audio brand has evolved
While the Naim amplifiers and speakers were incredibly popular among audiophiles during the first couple of decades, the company eventually realised that it needed to evolve if it wanted to stay relevant. Rather than just being a speaker company, Naim decided to embrace a brand identity as an audio lifestyle product.
In the year 2000, the new Naim Audio NAP 500 Power amplifier was created, along with a modern highly industrial aesthetic that helped to enhance Naim’s futuristic image for the years to come. By 2008, Naim had begun to develop its reputation as a high-end audio manufacturer for the modern world even further, through partnerships with companies like Bentley – one of the world’s best known high-end car manufacturers.
All the while, Naim Audio was concentrating heavily on aesthetics, sound-quality, and innovation. Eventually, in 2014, the business launched its very first wireless music system – Mu-So. The move into the digital world allowed Naim to expand its brand through a versatile music system capable of integrating with various high-end brands. The organisation even started selling through the Apple Store, and high-end retailers like John Lewis, instead of operating entirely through audio specialists.
The accessibility of Naim Audio products began to grow, changing the way people felt about the organisation at the same time. In 2016, the Naim Audio Mu-So QB emerged, ready to take the hi-fi world by storm with a more affordable route to the best quality of audio in the world.
The evolution of Naim Audio branding is a testament to how image, marketing, and design can affect a company over the years. Naim used existing characteristics like creativity and a commitment to quality, to build a futuristic brand that didn’t compromise on heritage. Today Naim Audio also offers its own streaming services through the ‘Uniti Music Servers’.
Naim is an example of how changing with the times doesn’t have to mean giving up on your brand’s purpose.
Naim Audio, Salisbury: A quintessentially British brand
If you’re not familiar with Naim Audio, or its branding efforts, don’t worry.
For a long time, this company has been regarded as one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. In fact, during the initial decades, it was impossible to find a Naim system in a high-street store, meaning that Naim was only available for a very niche selection of customers.
Despite its somewhat mysterious nature, this company has been developing handmade and innovative music systems from the Naim Audio Salisbury warehouses since it was incorporated in 1973. Naim has encountered some significant growth during that time too. It currently exports to over 45 countries and has more than 60 products available in the range.
While parts of the Naim Audio Branding strategy have changed over the years, one component remains the same: the focus on luxury. Just because you can buy a Naim system from John Lewis doesn’t make these high-end products any less premium in nature. A statement amplifier can set you back over £100,000.
Of course, while prices for Naim products might be high, they’re not just there to convey luxury. The cost of a Naim product is greater than a Sony or Pioneer device because Naim products are specialised and provide longevity. They outperform other manufacturers, and the team will repair and refurbish any product they’ve ever made. This commitment to recycling makes Naim Audio one of the greenest audio companies in the world.
While many specialist audio brands have struggled to compete in a world of digital downloads and iPods, Naim sets itself apart by offering not just a product, but a lifestyle. Naim appeals to those customers who would pay £50 for a vinyl record today, rather than paying 50p for a download from iTunes. Some might call them ‘hipsters’, but these audio connoisseurs aren’t willing to compromise on the way they listen to music.
The Naim Audio branding strategy is built on the idea that Julian Vereker had when he first launched the company: that people shouldn’t have to compromise on sound quality. Naim shares the same values as its target audience, and in doing so, it’s built an affinity with a customer base that spreads beyond the UK, and around the world. Speak to a Naim customer today, and you’re sure to hear about how they’ve stuck with the brand for years, and how no other hi-fi delivers the same quality of sound.
Naim Audio branding: Being seen to be heard
When Naim began building its brand image, it started with an uncompromising style similar to that of the mass-market low-fi competitors around the world. Naim products looked just the same as their shiny chrome competitors, even if the experience they offered was different. Unfortunately, this lack of differentiation meant that the business struggled to convince customers to part with a serious amount of cash. After all, why pay more for something that looks the same as a lower-end brand?
Eventually, Naim Audio pivoted away from this world and decided to explore something new. A more aspirational product design also led to a brand refresh in 2014, intended to help Naim connect with a new, younger audience.
During the Naim Audio branding refresh, the company knew that it needed to thoroughly review its brand. It didn’t want to move away from a focus on quality, or the heritage that 40+ years in the industry brought to the company, but it did want to go beyond the very restrictive core market of middle-aged males with a love of music.
The launch of the Mu-So product helped Naim move into the digital revolution, and that meant embracing a brand that could appeal to that younger, digital customer. Naim needed a way to convey its energy, and passion through a new and more dynamic image. First, the Mu-So product itself looked different: more colourful, vibrant, and high-tech with a focus on aesthetics.
Naim developed a unique range of products specifically for its Bentley partners. The Naim for Bentley Mu-So range combines elements of premium industrial design with the luxurious idea of supple leather seats and freedom. Within the Bentley range, Naim Audio even integrated a pattern that reflects the in-car audio grills in the Bentley vehicles – cars equipped with their own Naim speakers.
The evolution of the Naim Audio brand was all about showing people the potential timelessness of the company. Naim want to appear as an organisation that can compete in the evolving world of digital audio, without letting go of its traditional values of quality, premium, and luxury. Even as the company’s image changes, its manufacturing methods remain as stringent as ever, with every product intensely tested by engineers before delivery to a customer.
Naim Audio marketing: How Naim connects to customers
Naim Audio is a unique company because it shares the same intense relationship with music as its customers do. This universal value is crucial in a world where loyalty and customer relationships are key. Naim Audio doesn’t just design hand-crafted, high-level audio products and digital music systems – it creates experiences for its audiences intended to last a lifetime. Naim isn’t happy unless its products speak to its customers’ hearts and souls.
So, how has Naim connected with its customers over the years? It hasn’t always been easy. The Naim Audio marketing has evolved from traditional newspaper clippings and posters in the 70s and 80s to more experience-driven solutions today. The trouble is, Naim has always struggled with one major challenge: conveying the quality of their audio, without being able to give customers a way of testing it for themselves.
In the 1980s, Naim tried classic advertising. The company’s tongue-in-cheek promotions were intended to convey a confident and unorthodox brand dedicated to delivering luxury, high-quality products.
Of course, as the marketing world began to change, Naim Audio altered its strategy to suit it. Today, the company takes part in many different marketing strategies, including experiential events. For instance, Naim appears at the ‘Festival of Sound’ in London to demonstrate its products to audio connoisseurs each year.
Meanwhile, on social media, the company is committed to developing its reputation and helping customers to understand the brand. Naim Audio wants to be seen as an innovator and thought leader, which means that its social pages are packed full of insightful information, tips, and facts intended to engage and enthuse its audience.
One particularly important part of the Naim Audio marketing strategy is the company’s commitment to word of mouth advertising. With a product you have to hear to believe, Naim relies upon its customers to spread the word about the brand. While things like award-winning industrial design, high-quality sound and decades of heritage in the industry are all great selling points, it’s tough for any company to simply tell its customers that a product sounds fantastic.
Today, the Naim Audio marketing team actively collect and share reviews from happy customers. The business gathered around 1,000 reviews from clients within the first couple of months of their testimonial strategy online.
Learning from Naim Audio: The power of niche
By this point, you know a lot about the history of Naim and how it’s developed over the years. The chances are, however, that you’re wondering what your company can take away from the Naim Audio branding strategy?
There are plenty of things that Naim can teach you about successful branding and advertising. For instance, Naim shows us how important it is to upgrade your brand image, without losing your identity. The business also demonstrates the values of staying true to your company vision. However, perhaps the most important lesson to learn from Naim Audio is that having your own niche is a great way to stay competitive.
There’s a common perception in the business world that a product should attempt to be ‘all things’ to ‘all people’. The broader your business offering is, the greater the number of clients you can potentially attract. However, catching a wide net isn’t always the best option, as it means that you become a ‘generalist’, not a ‘specialist’.
Naim Audio branding in the age of the specialist
As the marketplace grows more competitive, with new companies that seem to offer the same thing as their competitors, customers are increasingly seeking out companies that can provide something different. We want specialists, with products and services that go beyond what you can typically get in any department store or website.
This demand for the special is particularly essential in a space like the audio world, where consumers are inherently driven by an emotional connection to the way that they listen to and experience music. You might have noticed that as experience becomes more of a driving factor for millennials, the way we purchase music is changing. 4.1 million vinyl albums were sold in the UK alone during 2017.
Once again, consumers are beginning the search for a more authentic experience with their music. Naim Audio isn’t just another company selling amplifiers and speakers for an audience packed full of people who are just as happy with a CD as they are with a vinyl record. Naim wants to deliver products to people who have a deep, almost spiritual connection with audio. This means that isn’t going to appeal to customers who want a cheap and cheerful system, but it is going to resonate with a specific group of people.
Naim customers might not care which supermarket gets their business, or which brand of detergent they buy, but they’ll be willing to pay over the odds for an audio experience that speaks to them. If you learn anything from the Naim Audio branding strategy, make sure it’s this: find your niche and deliver something they can’t live without.
The sound of success: Naim Audio branding
Today, few companies have managed to survive the decades quite like Naim Audio.
As a quintessentially British brand, Naim has somehow maintained its incredible heritage in the audio space, while simultaneously embracing new ideas and innovative new products. For more than 40 years, Naim has been a pioneer in the audio environment, bringing customers a deeper, more immersive experience from its signature sound.
Perhaps the most significant characteristic helping Naim to thrive in this new world is the infinite curiosity that has stayed with the brand over the years. From its founder ignoring the original manufacturing strategies used to create audio, to the current Naim engineers getting involved with newer formats like streaming, Naim is a brand with a history of inspiration and innovation.
Naim built its history on a straightforward goal: to create systems that make audio lovers feel like they’re in the room with the artists they’re listening to. As technology and trends have evolved over the years, customers have always retained their quest for the perfect experience. Naim’s commitment to one highly focused goal has helped it to attract a dedicated niche of fans, and continue to deliver incredible products, year after year.
As Naim says themselves, every one of their products is “conceived, designed, and engineered in the service of sound.” With a brand mission that pure, it’s easy to see why Naim has stood the test of time.
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