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People Are Buying More Experiences Than Things. I Tried the Viral Brand That Wants to Change the Way We Hear Them. Maarten Bodewes and Dimitri O co-founded direct-to-consumer brand Loop Earplugs because they couldn't find what they needed on the market.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Spending on experiences over possessions leads to more immediate happiness — and millennials are all for it.
  • Loop Earplugs offers a range of products to help you "live life at your volume," whether at a concert or in conversation.
  • The brand launched its Switch model earlier this month; it allows users to toggle between modes for a seamless experience.
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We're living in an experience economy. Increasingly, people who have to choose between a material good, like a new pair of shoes, or an experiential one, like a ticket to a concert, opt for the latter, according to analysis from McKinsey & Company.

Why? Millennials are now the largest spending cohort, and several factors motivate their investment in experiences — including the overall pursuit of happiness, per the data. And spending on experiences over possessions does lead to more immediate happiness, research from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin found.

"Think about it: When you ask older people what matters most in life, it's always the moments they've shared and the bonds they've formed that light up their memories, not the things they've bought," says Loop Earplugs co-founder Maarten Bodewes.

"We tried every earplug on the market. And we were always left wanting more."

Bodewes and his co-founder Dimitri O have been friends since childhood and share a "love of nightlife and live music." They also both suffer from tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that can result from regular exposure to loud sounds.

"In search of a solution, we tried every earplug on the market," Bodewes recalls. "And we were always left wanting more. No single earplug could deliver protection, comfort and style. Feeling frustrated and inspired, we left our stable careers behind to embark on a new adventure."

So, they founded Belgian direct-to-consumer brand Loop in 2016 and dove into the experiential space. Loop primarily catered to concert and festival-goers and was recognized by The New York Times for making "the best earplugs for concerts." Then the pandemic hit. With large gatherings on pause, the co-founders "had to get creative," so they focused on expanding their fanbase to include consumers in search of better sleep, focus and more.

Related: Use Tradition and Ritual to Thrive In the Experience Economy

Loop's product line now boasts earplugs to help people "live life at their volume," no matter what that looks like. "Experience" reduces noise without sacrificing sound quality and is well-suited for live music and events; "Engage" takes the edge off at social gatherings (or while parenting); and "Quiet" blocks out noise for deep sleep.

Earlier this month, the brand unveiled its latest offering: Loop Switch, a three-in-one earplug set that allows users to toggle between Experience, Engage and Quiet modes with just the flip of a switch. "With Switch, you're the maestro of your auditory universe," Bodewes says. "You can fine-tune your hearing protection throughout the day with a simple, tactile twist — offering three distinct attenuation levels, each with its own unique acoustic flavor. Total confidence and control, no matter the day you're having. Whether you're eavesdropping on conversations (17 dB SNR), jamming to your favorite tunes (21 dB SNR), or seeking serenity and focus (25 dB SNR), we've got you covered."

Image Credit: Courtesy of Loop Earplugs.

"Although I could still hear diners who were an arm's length away speaking, their conversation was muted, and distant background noise almost undetectable."

A couple of weeks before Switch's launch, I had the opportunity to put all of Loop's earplugs to the test during an evening in New York City. Each pair comes in various colors — from neutral blacks to trendy rose golds — and has four different sizes, making it easy for users to find their perfect fit.

First up was the Engage, which I tried at a lively Mexican restaurant in the Theater District. Engage provides up to 16 dB (SNR) of filtered noise reduction; in practice, that made it easier to focus on the conversation with my fiancé across the table. Although I could still hear diners who were an arm's length away speaking, their conversation was muted, and distant background noise in the lofty, two-story space — music playing downstairs, sounds from the kitchen — was almost undetectable. The Switch setting provided the same level of comfort and noise reduction too.

Related: Why Your Business Needs to Prepare for the Metaverse | Entrepreneur

Next, I changed to Experience for a performance of Hamilton on Broadway. We sat just a few rows back in the orchestra, and as the cast launched into the opening number establishing Alexander Hamilton's backstory and early life, I was struck by how the music and voices came through crisply but with a softer quality overall. Like Engage dialed down environmental noise, the Experience's 18 dB of noise reduction eliminated any chatter or other sounds from the audience at large, and the Experience mode on Switch did the same.

At the end of the night, I opted to try the Quiet mode on Switch to see how it might improve my quality of sleep. Despite staying in a Chelsea Hotel room that looked out onto bustling West 23rd Street on a Friday night, the Quiet setting on Switch fulfilled its promise, reducing up to 26 dB of noise for a restful night's sleep.

"Increasingly, we develop earwear that responds to specific customer needs. In the case of Switch, that was a totally seamless user experience."

Though it might seem like Switch is a replacement for the brand's other products, Bodewes stresses that it "builds on" the rest of Loop's product portfolio. "Increasingly, we develop earwear that responds to specific customer needs," he explains. "In the case of Switch, that was a totally seamless user experience."

Image Credit: Courtesy of Loop Earplugs.

To date, the brand that's "all about innovation" has sold more than five million earplugs globally, in the U.S. and over 150 other countries. It saw 350% year-over-year growth in 2022 and has plans for 10 product launches this year alone, according to Bodewes. The co-founder also emphasizes that the company's only as strong as its talent — and it's currently looking to add 50 people to its team of 200 by the end of the year.

Related: Not Sure How to Grow Your Team? Focus on These 3 Things.

"We want to empower people to choose how they experience the world around them without sacrificing the things they love doing," Bodewes says. "Our products are here to supercharge your experiences, whether you're partying, sleeping, focusing or traveling. We're on a mission to amp up your senses, so every moment feels like an upgrade, and you feel like your best self."

Loop Earplugs provided the products and experiences described in this story.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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