As the head honcho of French luxury audio company Devialet – which counts Beyonce and Jay-Z as celebrity devotees, and has showcased its high-end speakers at the Palais Garnier, home of Parisian opera – chief executive officer Franck Lebouchard knows a thing or two about creating intangible brand experiences that keep customers coming back for more.
“I want to make customers feel good about my product,” he declares. “I’ve learnt how to put their experiences first by not just delivering a satisfying product, but also making them feel good in their bodies and minds.”
It’s a grandiose statement befitting Devialet. Its signature Phantom wireless speakers are opulent, futuristic-looking pieces that combine cutting-edge audio technologies and innovation for an audio experience free of distortion, saturation and background noise.
Devialet recently unveiled the Phantom I that boasts a next-generation audio processing chip offering better acoustics and energy efficiency. Confidently, the brand urges customers to “demand the unreasonable… because we do”.
The right partnerships
Lebouchard has a marketing background and headed companies in markedly different industries – from consumer goods and management consultancy to professional training – that focus on the customer experience, which is why Devialet brought him in to aggressively scale up the company’s operations. Putting it more poetically, he refers to this move as “a mission to put sound back in its rightful place in people’s lives”.
The route to world domination can’t happen in silos, which is why Devialet is developing strategic partnerships with technology brands that already have strong credibility in markets where it has a smaller presence.
This has translated into the creation of a compact smart speaker with Belkin wireless charging capability and a Sound X speaker produced in collaboration with Huawei.
Ultimately, it’s about finding its match in companies keen to innovate and improve their customer experiences. “Companies like Huawei and Belkin are tech-passionate,” Lebouchard says. “That was what brought us together in the first place.”
Moving big, going small
Devialet’s expansion strategy is already paying dividends. In 2020, and in an economy fuelled by the revenge spending phenomenon that saw a surge in demand for luxury products, China became its second-largest market in its second year in the country.
Lebouchard sees a similar demand in South-east Asia, “a huge, untapped opportunity for Devialet” and the company’s fastest-growing region. It has opened its first store in Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta, and it has set up premium resellers in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. In Singapore, Lebouchard observes that the demand for Devialet products has held steady as local audiophiles focus on upgrading their acoustics.
“The pandemic has affected the speed of offline expansion to some degree, but demand is growing as people do more research to find the best audio for their homes and businesses,” he explains. This increase in the interest and desire for sound quality has accelerated Devialet’s R&D efforts to create more devices that can offer that much-touted immersive listening experience.
As the company goes big on operations globally, it’s also looking to venture into new corners of the audio tech market by scaling down in size, literally.
Last year, it launched Devialet Gemini, its first wireless earbuds that promise to provide the same deep sound. It’s also Lebouchard’s current favourite product, partly because of how much it encapsulates the company’s ethos.
“Since the start, it has always been Devialet’s vision to create miniaturised, high-end capability products to provide a growing number of people with better sound quality,” he says.
“The Gemini takes the Devialet sound quality to a nomadic level; it gives me the chance to always have this sound experience with me. It’s precious.”