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Pioneer Unveils Kuro Ad Campaign

DENVER — Pioneer will give its Kuro flat-panel TV line a major push in the next phase of a coordinated advertising and marketing campaign designed to protect and promote the premium nature of Pioneer’s products while communicating the emotional impact delivered by their enhanced picture and sound quality.

Russ Johnston, Pioneer Electronics USA marketing and product development senior VP, said the company developed a coordinated advertising campaign with roughly triple the total budget investment spent in the past, including more than double its expenditure on “traditional media.”

Phase three of the total campaign, which kicked off just prior to CEDIA Expo, being held here this week, will employ three cable and national broadcast TV spots, four major print ads using double-page spreads, extensive Web placements and a “360-degree” marketing outreach approach targeting before, during and after the sale.

Of the latter, Johnston said the company will work extensively with retail partners on a variety of tailored and customized marketing and merchandising programs to help “solidify the brand in the marketplace” while helping dealers promote and sell Pioneer and Elite products at healthier margins than others.

As an example, activities could include shop-in-shop merchandising environments and end-caps that Pioneer will test with select retailers throughout September, before selecting the best approaches to rollout across the country, Johnston said.

The program will focus around the new silver-on-black logo and the slogan, “Seeing and hearing like never before,” announced last May as the second phase of the program. The first phase started a year ago when the plan was conceived, he explained.

“That slogan was deeply rooted in a disruptive tactic we were using to change the game in the marketplace,” Johnston said. “It is a choice by Pioneer to break away from the commoditization model and really not become that high volume, mainstream supplier in the flat-panel segment.”

Beginning at CEDIA, Johnston said the next phase of coordinated effort will help to establish a brand name — “Kuro flat-panel displays” — for Pioneer’s plasma display category.

Kuro, which in Japanese “stands for black,” will be the foundation for the emotional experience created by Pioneer’s latest picture technology breakthroughs that significantly improve contrast and black level performance.

“Our disruptive strategy as a brand is about the emotion you get from the total home entertainment experience,” Johnston said. “We are moving away from selling sight and sound specifications … and talking about the whole sight, sound and source experience.”

He explained the new Kuro brand references flat-panel TV and not specifically plasma, because Pioneer is “not really interested in defining it as plasma TV, LCD TV, SED TV or any other technology. We believe it’s the best representation for high-definition flat-panel technology. Confusion is created by talking about technology and specifications and we’re trying to get that out of our language.”

Print and TV spots will feature predominately black-and-white visuals communicating how people will benefit from an emotional experience generated through sight and sound, he said.

In addition, the campaign will leverage major billboard advertising in Manhattan and Los Angeles.

The three TV spots planned for the campaign primarily will run against sports. These will include five second retailer tags at the end of spots in local markets.

This will include major buys on ESPN Networks, including NCAA and NFL games; NFL games on NBC and Fox; World Series games; and American and National Baseball League playoff games.

He said spending on Web advertising will be “almost quadrupled from what we’ve spent in the past.” It will include consumer, enthusiast and sports sites.

The North American campaign is part of a larger global marketing effort that extends into Japan and Europe.

“This is the first time Pioneer has unified our message across three major international regions,” Johnston said. “We’ll be sharing our ‘Seeing and hearing like never before,’ message, logo and ad creative.”

Because Elite is primarily a North American brand, it will not be featured in the advertising, although the Kuro initiative runs across both Pioneer and Elite lines in the United States, he said. Elite products have never separated the Pioneer brand, he pointed out, adding that it has always been presented as Elite by Pioneer.

“We are choosing CEDIA Expo, which is primarily a show for our Elite line, to launch the campaign,” Johnston said. “It is a very significant channel of distribution for us in North America.”

Johnston said the Kuro campaign will focus primarily on plasma TVs because “we have traditionally used plasma as our lead product category for brand advertising. You’ll see plasmas in the ad campaign, but our logo, slogan and brand DNA we are trying to communicate will involve all of our product categories.”