Challenges Facing Headphones Reach All Avenues

By TWICE Staff On Mar 12 2012 - 4:01am




TWICE: What are the current biggest challenges facing headphones manufacturers? Is counterfeiting one of them?

Noel Lee, Monster: In addition to the challenges inherent to a competitive and thriving marketplace, today’s headphone manufacturers are tasked with not only creating products capable of standing out from the crowd, but — in the case of companies like Monster that are committed to dramatically improved sound quality — it is a challenge to educate consumers about the very real lifestyle benefits of better sound. To meet this challenge, it’s imperative to work closely with retailers and help them promote and demo ‘higher definition’ products in the right ways.

The manufacture and sale of counterfeit consumer electronics products is a major concern to all legitimate manufacturers, retailers, and, of course, consumers. To combat this problem, Monster launched a vigorous anti-counterfeit and diversion program, and we’re working with federal and state law enforcement not only here in the U.S., but in the EU, China and Australia as well to stop the manufacture and trade of counterfeit products globally.

Matt Engstrom, Shure: One of the biggest challenges is that hearing can vary so much between people, and everyone has a different preference when it comes to how music should sound. At Shure our real challenge is to identify a need and deliver a solution without compromising customer expectations.

Akio Strasser, Phiaton: As with all categories in the CE industry, retail space is limited. As the headphone market continues to grow and diversify, it is more important than ever for manufacturers to embrace and support the retail channel. Developing creative ways to differentiate your products, support dealers, and provide proof of your product’s quality and value proposition is imperative to overcoming challenges in today’s competitive marketplace. Counterfeiting is a very real problem for many product categories, and new precautions should always be developed and utilized in order to protect both consumers and manufacturers.

Val Kolton, V-Moda: As the old adage goes, “you must be doing something right” if you are being copied. Counterfeiting may seem like it is a huge issue, but I don’t feel it is, in fact. It is only a concern for mostly a few companies in America, namely Beats, V-Moda and Sennheiser. The main danger for us is if consumers buy a counterfeit and have a durability issue, especially on the fake in-ears like Remix or Vibe ... The real challenge and extremely disturbing trend in the industry is the intellectual property battles. All of these legal battles are very bad for consumers, as it occupies precious resources that could be used for product innovation.

Lisa Phelan, Philips: Explosive category growth has led to a proliferation of brands as more manufacturers enter the space. Today, we see celebrity endorsements, pure fashion brands and manufacturers with no history or expertise in audio all trying to carve a niche for themselves. This makes it more difficult to break through, even when you have great products.

Fred Zecha, JVC Americas: A big challenge is staying true to who you are as a brand, while at the same time keeping up with market trends and providing the consumer with a stylish, great-sounding and comfortable product. As for counterfeiting, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then we’ve been sincerely flattered. There’s plenty of product out there with packaging and product design that’s very similar to our own. It’s not counterfeiting — they’re not using the JVC brand. But they mimic our design, and it’s a problem to the extent that people might be confused about what they’re purchasing.

Cheryl Severini, Maxell: Counterfeiting has not been an issue for Maxell in the headphone category. The biggest challenge for us is in developing unique products in a category with such a large number of suppliers. Maxell’s main focus is in providing headphones and ear buds that meet the needs of today’s users.

Suzann Taylor, Jasco Products: The toughest challenge right now is raw materials pricing is on the rise. As far as counterfeiting as an industrywide issue, yes. If consumers are not buying headphones from a trusted source, chances are they are a counterfeit version.

Judd Armstrong, Jaybird Gear: U.S.-based manufacturing is not an option for headphone manufacturers since all the resources have moved to China and other developing countries. One of the largest threats is increasing costs of production due to labor markets in China, and the USD exchange rate. In time it will force manufacturers to work closely with new suppliers in other countries to ensure quality controls are appropriately transferred.

Dan Levine, Skullcandy: Counterfeiting seems to be a significant problem for relevant brands. It is always shocking to see how quickly these knock-off artists can bring a fake to market. We have a very aggressive anti-counterfeiting strategy in place that begins with protecting our intellectual property and extends to targeting specific manufacturers and retailers that are engaging in this disgraceful practice. With respect to other challenges in the headphone category, brands need to recognize that the consumer has become far more demanding which has put the right pressure on the market to bring innovative product to retail at great speed. Of course, pricing is always a concern. The promotional pressures on retailers during high-traffic holiday seasons can have a lasting corrosive effect on the category that is tough to unwind.

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