By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
After years of defining themselves by the brands they carry, some retailers are “branding” themselves.
Two cases in point are Ultimate Electronics, Thornton, Colo., and Music Systems, El Paso, Texas. Both are branding their expertise in installation.
Ultimate just launched an exclusive new Ultimate Ride brand for its 32 stores in a fanfare of radio and newspaper ads. The company is seeking to highlight the chain's expertise in car audio and also to shine a spotlight on a category that the store has not pushed in recent years.
“We're really giving visibility to our custom installers by putting a brand around it,” said Randall Baumberger, president/COO.
Ultimate said it began the Ultimate Ride brand campaign because “Car stereo isn't building as quickly as the rest of the business.” Baumberger noted, “We have an enormous amount of very talented custom installers, but the company over time has focused less on the category, and we felt it needed a different brand to highlight it and to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.” Baumberger explained that car stereo also has “unique audience and energy.”
Ultimate remodeled its installation bays and waiting rooms with the Ultimate Ride logo and added Ultimate Ride demo cars.
Also, to support the brand, it launched an online sweepstakes in several states for a $5,000 car entertainment system, and it added Diamond Audio to its merchandising mix.
Music Systems, a smaller one-store operation, didn't create a separate brand but set out to “brand” the store name by associating it with installation expertise. President Steve Hadaad said, “As an independent, the most important brand we sell is us, and we've exerted a huge effort in the past year to brand our store.” Now customers are given a tour of the facilities “to show what we can do.” The store documents its best installations with photos that are placed online and in the store. The third tactic is “being the ones who say 'yes' to almost any installation. We may say, 'Yes, and its $500,' but we say, 'Yes,' said Hadaad.
“For so many years, we could define ourselves as the brands we carried. The Internet wiped that out … The manufacturers are trying to keep unauthorized sales and transshipping to a minimum but they can't completely cut it off,” said Hadaad, adding, “If we're the brand, then they really can't go anywhere else.”
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