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Ultimate Launches Car Brand, Retailers Adapt to New Market

Thorton, Colo. — Retailers are changing how they approach car audio as the market becomes more complex, requiring greater expertise in adapting after-market products to high-tech new cars.

Two cases in point are Ultimate Electronics, based here, and Music Systems of El Paso, Texas. Both are “branding” their installation expertise in car audio and positioning their stores as “experts.”

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 high profit market that has its own unique audience, but whose sales have been sluggish.

“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 has “unique audience and energy.”

Ultimate remodeled its installation bays and waiting rooms with the Ultimate Ride logo and added Ultimate Ride demo cars.

Ultimate launched and online sweepstakes in Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota and Arizona to support the Ultimate Ride brand. One winner from each state will receive a personalized mobile entertainment system worth $5,000 for his or her ride. The sweepstakes runs through May 27. Ultimate also 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 his store name by associating it with installation and car electronics 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 made available on the Internet and in a photo album. The third tactic is “being the ones who say ‘yes’ to almost any installation. “We may say ‘Yes, and it’s $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.”