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Low-end CD players under $150, while not as glamorous as in-dash DVD, are still the bread-and-butter of the car stereo market, accounting for roughly a third of the unit volume in in-dash head units this year, according to NPD Techworld, Port Washington, N.Y. One of the top ranking products in that segment is the JVC KD-S570, which has sold more than the top three Kenwood head units combined, or the top three Alpine head units combined.
With a suggested retail of $139, the JVC KD-S570 accounted for about 5 percent of all head units sold, ranking as the No. 2 seller in year-to-date head unit sales from May 2001 through April 2002, said NPD Techworld.
The KD-S570 is not unusual featurewise, except that it — and its replacement the current KD-S580 — offers a detachable face at a lower price point than most other suppliers, according to JVC. The cosmetics for the unit are strong, as is the reliability, according to JVC and its retailers.. It's sold through top chains including Circuit City, Best Buy and Sears.
Basic features also include 45 by 4 watt built-in power and a set of pre-outs for adding an amplifier.
JVC claims much of the popularity behind the KD-S570 comes from the company's success in promoting the brand to Gen Xer's — the key demographic for car audio. A highly targeted marketing campaign over the past four years has helped move the brand into the No. 3 slot behind Pioneer and Sony in market share, said JVC.
According to Chad Vogelsong, national product and marketing manager for mobile electronics, JVC spends less money than its competitors on advertising and was not necessarily the first to target the Gen X and Gen Y markets. But Vogelsong notes, "We have done it differently that anyone else." The advertising is targeted to specific audiences within the youth demographic such as heavy metal fans, snowboarders and fashionable young women.
"Why do people buy a CD player? To listen to music," said Vogelsong, adding, "We stopped marketing ourselves as an electronics manufacturer and started marketing ourselves as an entertainment provider. We make electronic stereos and they have a 45 by 4 chip but the average kid on the street doesn't care. But if you say Nikki Sixx has this in his car then they care. No one cares about RF modulation and CD changer controls."
So in a complete reversal of "feature war" advertising, JVC claims to have taken its brand from plain Jane to cool. "We were the red-headed stepchild. The line was good product, but in specialty retailers, it was Kenwood and Alpine and there was no mystique to the JVC brand whatsoever. Over the past six years, the brand became cool. It's not your father's Oldsmobile anymore," Vogelsong said.
This was achieved, he claims, by a lot of grassroots marketing. When the company sponsored a Megadeth tour, it advertised in music magazines such as Metal Edge, Alternative Press and Blender vs. the traditional ad campaigns in audio buff magazines. It offered product giveaways on Megadeth's Web site and related sites.
JVC is also very strong on partnering with other companies. "We went into skateboard magazines so we partnered with a skateboard company and they made up our advertising for us because they would know how the ad should look to get their audience. A large part of it is standing back and realizing the kids buying CDs and skateboards are all the same kids and the car stereo is a piece of the lifestyle," said Vogelsong.
JVC's most recent marketing gamble was targeting the women's market through a partnership with Urban Decay cosmetics. The two head units offered under this promotion, the KDS700BU and KDS700GN, in blue and green colors to match the make up, went into back order in April after shipping in March, said Vogelsong.