Re: Helping Audiophile Dealers with the "Audio Room of the Future"
Jerry: You have made some excellent observations and suggestions regarding the actual sales of hifi gear in a B&M environment. However, I have long felt that the industry in general has moved away from some of the most basic marketing rules, and has suffered as a result.
First, marketing begins at an early age, not once the target is already established and able to afford the items being sold. Remember the golden age of hifi? Every kid was at least curious about building a kit radio or even a Heathkit amp. Heck, my own father built his first real speaker (Utah coaxial driver in an open-backed cabinet). I am not suggesting an emphasis on DIYers, but rather that these kits were aimed at teenagers and were a gateway to better-fi. Once they realized that to achieve even better sound they had to buy factory-built gear from Mac or Marantz, they moved on. It was also natural for them to seek out high quality gear that was factory-assembled as they became too busy with life to build their own.
Second, any marketing major knows that you have to create a need for your product by telling your audience that they are lacking something, and that your product will fix their problem. Hence the images in the old days of the beautiful living room with the hi-end gear and speakers in it one used to see in ANY magazine or newspaper - not just hobbyist rags. That's why Bose is so successful: Look at their ads - beautiful people, well-dressed and hip, using Bose products in real-world, yet idealized homes and cars. And these ads aren't only in A/V magazines, they're everywhere! Expensive? Sure. But they work. And so it is with the iPod. Ask any teenager: If you don't have an iPod (or at least a very cool MP3 player), you're not among the cool and popular kids. And that's the key - every kid wants to be cool and popular. Why is vinyl experiencing huge growth among younger, non-audiophile buyers? It's become COOL! A new generation of kids, desparate to be liked, cool, popular, are seeing turntables as a way to be all of those things. At my last record show, I was stunned by the number of young people buying vinyl, and I highly doubt they were taking them home to play on their SME 'table with Koetsu pickup, Conrad-Johnson electronics and Focal Utopia speakers. Advertising has the power to do that with hifi, if only the tried and true rules of marketing are applied to this industry.
So, what should be done? The MP3 generation is more-or-less lost. Sure, we can convert a handful with careful demonstrations of hi-end audio systems, but this generation will never be like the last, when your home just wasn't complete without a big honkin' Pioneer receiver, turntable and speakers (and if you lived in a tonier suburb, a Mac rack). I say, focus on the next generation, and build a future for the industry. Do so with slick product placement in film and TV. Celebrity endorsements of hi-end manufacturers seemed goofy when they were in the pages of TAS or Stereophile, but they would work well in mainstream publications like the New York Times Sunday Magazine or Esquire. Like the glory days of Hugh Hefner in his mansion, you can slowly build up the idea that no successful person would be caught dead without a quality hifi rig in his living room (OK - or Audio Room if you prefer). And put these ads on general, non-hobbyist websites that teenagers use, too!
Lastly, the industry should not shy away from telling the truth about MP3s. The visuals for ads explaning how MP3s leave you with less than 10% of the original music could be startling and attention-grabbing. Surely ads like these would peak the curiousity of teens who've never heard resolution of more than 128 kbps. Again - these ads need to preach to the unconverted: Placing these ads in hobbyist mags is a waste of money. They belong in general publications, radio, TV and the web, all with that younger demographic in mind.