In the premium Bluetooth speaker and earphone market, there's Bose, which targets the professional and affluent (or professional and affluent wannabe), and there's Beats, which targets the young and urban (or young and urban wannabes).
Kicker figures there's a large underserved market for its pending Bullfrog line of premium-priced Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth earphones, a market Kicker home and personal brand manager Jeremy Bale carefully calls "flyover" consumers. He defines these as Middle Americans who enjoy listening to high-quality music while out and about for tailgating, biking, hiking, camping, climbing, hunting, et al.
This is a market with which Kicker is familiar thanks to its bass-heavy car speakers from whence the company derives its name. But Bale believes the company has lost contact with this core Kicker customer — hence the new Bullfrog line. "We built a market on our boom in the 1980s and '90s with Kicker," Bale noted. "What we didn't do is create a diversity of products to capitalize on this market."
Kicker's first Bullfrog product is the waterproof Jump portable Bluetooth speaker ($399.95), announced in July and intended to be available last month. But Kicker decided to swap the auxiliary output, used to daisy-chain multiple speakers to create a wall of sound, with an external telescoping FM antenna to improve radio reception.
Jump will soon go on pre-sale on the Kicker website, and is scheduled to be available in limited quantities at select retailers in late December and then more widely in January.
Jump is the first of up to nine Bullfrog Bluetooth products being planned. The first two will be smaller, lower-priced versions of the Jump, the Skip ($299.95, Q3 2017), and the Hop ($199.95, Q4 2017). Kicker is conversing about developing "active" or "sport"-style Bullfrog Bluetooth earphones, over-ear Bluetooth headphones and outdoor patio speakers. The rest of the Bullfrog strategy and product plan will be announced at CES.
Bullfrog is a new premium brand, designed to "represent the heart of who Kicker is," Bale said. The brand will be labeled "Bullfrog by Kicker," and distribution will shift to a different, new set of distributor and retail partners than Kicker's branded SKUs since Bullfrog is designed to appeal to a more well-heeled consumer.
"People recognize the Kicker name," Bale noted. "We want to reconnect Kicker with fans who knew us when they were young, and now we have products for them to graduate to."
Meanwhile, Kicker-branded products will represent the company's entry-level line. One of these Kicker-branded products will be the EB400 ($99.95, Q2 2017) in-ear phones, a step-up from its current EB300 ($79.95). Bale said the EB400 will feature more "refined" earbuds than is its predecessor and an in-line remote, and will be IPX8 waterproof rated.