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McIntosh Revamps Product, Marketing Strategies


— Products are only part of the story that McIntosh
is telling at the CEDIA Expo.

The high-end audio-component company is outlining the
next steps in a campaign to expand its customer base beyond
audiophiles to include affluent consumers who are
serious about music.

The brand is also outlining plans to work with select
dealers to build dedicated McIntosh areas within their
stores. The store-in-store concept is part of an effort to focus
improved support on a smaller base of independent
specialists, whose ranks were reduced earlier this year to
220 from 310 in the U.S. and Canada.

McIntosh whittled down its dealer base to weed out
dealers that did not meet volume requirements or other
standards, executives told TWICE. Some also transshipped
to unauthorized online dealers. In some cases,
the former dealers will be replaced to fill geographic holes,
president Charlie Randall noted.

As for products, McIntosh plans to show five new twochannel
components, including its first three with a USB
port to play back music from a USB-connected PC or from
a USB drive. The three components comprise two twochannel
preamps and a two-channel SACD player.

To increase support for dealers selling these and other
McIntosh products, McIntosh is developing a McIntoshbranded
display wall with LCD TV that displays a McIntosh
video on a continuous loop. The TV will be flanked by McIntosh
literature that consumers can take home. Dealers that
support the entire McIntosh line, or about 120, will get first
access to the display, Randall said. In the past, McIntosh
didn’t offer much in the way of in-store POP, he noted.

Also to boost dealer support, the brand this year will select
two dealers, one on the East Coast and one on the
West Coast, to test McIntosh-branded store-in-store areas,
which would be staffed by dealer salespeople trained by
McIntosh. The areas, anywhere from 300 to 500 square
feet, would feature a home-theater vignette, a stereo-listening
vignette and a work station area with literature. There, a
salesperson and customer could discuss products or develop
a custom-install plan, Randall said.

McIntosh hopes to get the two test stores operational
early next year and, in about two years from now, open 30
McIntosh store-in-store areas, one to a major metro area.
Another 10 would operate in other countries.

McIntosh dealers who build the stores will get steppedup
support, including support for the store’s grand opening,
support for product-launch events and a prime position
on the McIntosh website.

In a separate sales-building strategy, the
brand is stepping up efforts to expand consumer
awareness beyond the audiophile
community to include affluent consumers.
The effort began last year largely with public-
relations efforts, but now the effort will
expand to advertising, event marketing, and
distribution, said Linda Passaro, recently
appointed as sales and marketing VP after
years of marketing luxury brands.

She called McIntosh a “very prestigious
brand not perhaps so well-known outside
of audiophiles.” To reach beyond the audiophile
base without ignoring them, McIntosh
will begin in January to advertise in upscale
magazines such as Guitar Aficionado and
the DuPont Registry, Passaro said. McIntosh
will also work with the luxury magazines
to drive their readers to McIntosh dealer
events and McIntosh products to events
sponsored by the magazines, she said.

The advertising will coincide with the
launch of a redesigned website whose look
and feel will increase their appeal luxury
consumers, though it will continue to offer
audiophiles the detailed specs they want,
she said.

The brand will also pursue partnerships
with luxury hotels to place McIntosh products
in their suites.

In a major shift, the company will pursue
distribution through luxury retailers outside
typical CE distribution channels, but
only cash-and-carry products will be sold
through stores where affluent customers
shop, Randall said. For now, such products
are limited to a $7,500 tabletop
executive-style stereo system, but the
brand said additional products are in
the works.

In another effort to expand its demographic,
McIntosh plans a musicmanagement
app for the iPhone/iPod
Touch and for the iPad. The app will feature
McIntosh design elements, such as
the company’s signature blue Vu meter,
to “expose more people to the blue meter,”
Randall said.

At the CEDIA Expo, McIntosh will
expose dealers to five new two-channel
products: two preamps, two stereo
power amps and a two-channel SACD/
CD player.

The three products with a USB port
are the C50 and C48 preamps and
the MCD100 SACD player. The C50,
shipping in September, features eightband
equalizer, two-line vacuum-fluorescent
display, Vu meters, processor
loop, moving-coil and moving-magnet
phono inputs, four assignable S/PDIF
digital inputs, two assignable balanced
inputs, IR data port, and a USB input
that plays PCM digital audio from a
USB stick or PC.

The lower-priced C48 offers the
C50’s features except for processor
loop and Vu meters, and its EQ is fiveband.

The SACD player ships in October
with single-disc transport to play CD,
SACDs, hybrid CD/SACD discs, and
MP3- and WMA-encoded discs. Features
include quad DACs per channel,
XLR/BNC inputs and outputs, coaxial
and optical digital outputs and inputs,
fixed and variable balanced and unbalanced
outputs, and a 6-volt RMS output
to directly drive a power amp.

The two power amps also ship in
October. The MC453 delivers 2×450
watts into 8-, 4- and 2-ohm loads. The
MC302 delivers 2×300 watts into
those loads. Both replace existing
models and add Thermal Trak capability,
which monitors temperature across
the entire heat sink, not just at one area,
to prevent the operating temperature
from drifting.