Irvine, Calif. — Back from the company’s recent dealer meeting, Mitsubishi marketing VP Frank DeMartin discussed with TWICE the company’s unique decision to go exclusively with LCD TVs that use its integrated 16-speaker sound-projector technology and to stick with DLP rear projection as others bail out.
As previously reported here, Mitsubishi introduced the new “Unisen” sub-brand for its 2009 LCD TVs, all of which integrate the company’s unusual 16-speaker immersive surround-sound technology, which first appeared in a pair of models last year.
DeMartin said this year’s Unisen models have improved the frequency range and tonality of the product.
In addition, the company introduced a new line, called the Home Theater line, which denotes TVs using UHP-lamp based DLP rear-projection technology, and later this summer it will formally announce the expansion of its flagship LaserVue (laser-lamp-based) DLP rear-projection TV line with new screen sizes to complement the 65-inch model shipping now, dealers said.
The following is a Q&A interview with DeMartin on Mitsubishi’s 2009 plans:
TWICE: Why did you add the Unisen sub-brand this year?
DeMartin: We had success with the two integrated sound field models last year, but after it was introduced we felt that when it came to the consumer, that wasn’t particularly memorable or understandable terminology. So we developed a name that consumers could remember and identify with. Our tagline is “a beautiful picture deserves beautiful sound.” The message is the marriage of the two in the Unisen line.
TWICE: Why did you opt to go exclusively with Unisen models for your LCD offerings this year, instead of adding a selection with just stereo-speakers or monitor-only models?
DeMartin: We showed last year that the integrated sound projector offered a value-add not only for our brand but for our retailers. When you look at all the flat panels out there, it’s a sea of sameness. This provides a point of differentiation for us and for our value-added retailers who can demonstrate this and talk to their customers about it.
TWICE: How will that sit with your custom -nstaller accounts that tend to sell complete systems with separate audio and video components?
DeMartin: For the custom channel, Unisen is more of an application approach. Is this going to replace the main media room large-screen TV and a 12.1 audio system? No. But in the master bedroom and the extra bedrooms where people might not want to install in-wall speakers and everything that goes along with that, this is a great solution. It’s a very application specific approach.
TWICE: You are the last remaining major player in DLP rear projection, what do you see as the future for that category?
DeMartin: We see a big future for large-screen television — 60-inch and above. To prove that, we introduced an 82-inch Home Theater TV (UHP-lamp based DLP rear-projection set) this year. We believe in the large-screen category, and we are going to continue to deliver what we think is the best solution for that category.
TWICE: Will you have as many retailers carrying the category this year?
DeMartin: The vast majority of retailers who carried Home Theater [DLP] TVs last year will continue to do so this year. We had overwhelming support at our dealer show for the line, especially the 82-inch models, which was really the belle of the ball. The retailers understand that they need to add value and offer something that is different from what you are going to get at Wal-Mart.
TWICE: Speaking of Wal-Mart, will you have any products tailored to Best Buy or the bigger venues?
DeMartin: We aren’t really changing too much in the way we are going to market with that product for this year vs. last year. We have two lines essentially — the 737 and the 837 series. Depending on the retailer, they are choosing which model line or lines works best for them.
TWICE: What are the plans for the LaserVue lineup in 2009?
“We will be announcing our plans for expanding the lineup later this year. Thankfully, we are back in production on the $6,999 65-inch model we introduced last year, and we are continuing to fill backorders. We halted production for a little while, but hopefully in a couple of months we will have enough supply to meet everyone’s needs, but right now we are still getting there.
TWICE: Most of the sets you offer this year are billed as being 3-D ready. Do you have any plans to push that more aggressively this year?
DeMartin: Absolutely. We are working closely with our partners both on the equipment side and on the studio side to try to figure out how to make this happen. We’ve been a little delayed in releasing this, but we are going to finally release a retail display for 3-D in late May. Consumers can walk up to this fixture put on a pair of 3-D glasses, press one button tand play a 3-D loop. Our partners for the display include Nvidia (provides glasses and 3-D gaming graphics solutions) and Aspen Media Products (provides a PC server). We are working with key retail partners on a trial run using about 150 to 200 retail locations and we’ll see how that goes.
TWICE: Does Mitsubishi have any major advertising or promotional plans to back the new lines this year?
DeMartin: We don’t have anything to announce regarding national campaigns, but we are doing a lot more in promotions with our retailers on a local level. We are doing more with bundles, including subwoofer bundles for the Unisen line of products. We did this last year, and we have just started a new promotion this year with an Energy subwoofer we will be offering for our retailers, and going forward we have a relationship with Polk Audio in which we will be featuring a new Polk wireless subwoofer and allowing our retailers to participate in promotions throughout the year. We are also continuing many of our other promotions throughout the year. We’ve been very active with our gas promotion, our food promotion, our 3-D financing and we will be doing additional promotions that we haven’t announced yet with more hard product bundles.
TWICE: How has business been for Mitsubishi this year?
DeMartin: Surprisingly pretty good. I think we were well positioned. We entered the year with very little inventory. So far, March was a little tough, but April seems to be doing a little bit better. Given the economy, we are doing very well, considering.