From high-tech slogans and slick marketing campaigns to relying on retailers to get the word out, a company's ability to enable its products to "speak" to each other is the new Holy Grail in the CE industry, and it begins with HDTVs.
Three companies-Panasonic, Sony and Samsung-are pioneering the realm of the capability spectrum, enabling their HDTVs to talk to their like-branded digital cameras, camcorders, laptops, home entertainment systems, and more.
The concept is simple. It is based on a one-button theory. A family can go on a trip, take video and stills of their adventures, uploading everything for viewing on the HDTV of the same brand, with the push of a button on the remote control.
The beauty of compatible products for the manufacturer is the promotion of its many lines at once. But the pluses can really add up if you're a retailer selling these products. If the theory works, not only will customers keep returning for next-in-line items, the makers are beginning to offer training programs for retailers to help them sell these items. Consumers, on the other hand, can expect more family time.
Education is Key to understanding
"Interoperability brings people together. [It] changes the way they do things," says Jeff Cove, Panasonic's VP of business development. "It's a life changer. The family is all in the living room, not huddled around the PC," says Cove.
The brainchild of Panasonic's "Living in HD" campaign began as a "byproduct of working for a really big company," says Cove, adding that employees attend staff meetings of other product groups to know what everyone is working on. "It was all about making our stuff work together."
"Living in HD," became Panasonic's project that chooses families across the nation to use a bundle of HD products and complete given challenges. Those chosen, are later interviewed about their experiences. How the group uses the products together is also studied.
The company then uses the information, which may be as small as making a button larger or changing it to a different color, to tweak the products for ease of use.
Panasonic offers a program for retailers, to educate salespeople about HD products and an angle to sell them. Retailers are shown that there are HD slots in "everything" Panasonic makes.
Sony's integrated marketing campaign, "HDNA, high definition. It's in our DNA," came to life after the company discovered through focus groups and research conducted that consumers weren't interested in just HD products alone, says Alexandra Magin, Sony's director of corporate marketing.
As a result, Sony's compatible offerings include pro video cameras, Blu-ray players, HDTVs, HD camcorders, VAIO computers, digital cameras, and more.
According to a brand barometer study, "consumers today equate Sony to HD more than any other CE brand," adds Magin.
Additionally, the company wants insurance that their products are being marketed properly at retail. Like Panasonic, Sony is working closely with its retailers.
"[We] offer display solutions that show how these products enhance each other and work together," says Magin, adding that a large campaign was held at Sears.
They provide scenarios to retailers to communicate to customers, "like connecting your camera or your camcorder to your HDTV to better view and share your pictures and movies with family and friends from the comfort of your couch," explains Magin.
Samsung believes that the retailer will probably be the best way to communicate the HD message and that the sales forces in the specialty camera channel will be integral in educating consumers.
"We are in the process of researching the best way to communicate the HD message to consumers and we feel that the very knowledgeable sales force in the specialty camera channel will be a vital component in the education process," says Stewart R. Henderson, Samsung's VP of marketing.
Henderson adds that "a dedicated HDTV/DSC display is the best way" [to market products together].