Like most CEOs of AV systems integration firms, John Miceli is always scanning the horizon for new products that can help him design and deliver better client project solutions. But if you're a product manufacturer trying to catch his eye with a new offering ? especially one that's venturing beyond your established expertise ? don't expect to get very far with him on your good name alone. ?Just because a manufacturer makes a great product or two doesn't mean we're going to love everything they do,? says Miceli, who runs Orlando, FL-based Technomedia Solutions. ?I commend companies that have tried to move beyond their niche, but product expansions have to be executed correctly, and products have to be well thought out ? not just conceived in a race to compete. Three-quarters of their vision can't be on competitors and one-quarter on themselves.? Miceli's mindset is one that a growing number of AV gear manufacturers might do well to contemplate. As more manufacturers ? from companies like Harman Pro to Loud T
Oltz worries that manufacturers engaging in all-out efforts to create brand synergies — real or contrived — will be hurt. Ditching established conventional representative relationships could actually put a dent in sales and profits, especially when it comes to marketing gear like microphones.
“AKG was one of our major lines,” he says. “It deserved and got our full attention on a daily basis. Will a line like AKG become the new rep's third or fourth line?”Questioning the demand
While Harman and Extron typify the product line expansion approach more manufacturers are taking, some debate whether it's truly the wave of the future.
Ken Berger, senior vice president of marketing and product development for Loud Technologies Inc., the Woodville, WA, owner of audio brands that include Mackie and EAW, contends the “one-stop” sales pitch alone doesn't motivate systems designers or integrators.
“I think this one-stop shop idea comes from manufacturers, not end-users,” he says. “Consumers I talk to aren't asking for that. Quite the opposite, they simply want the next great product — one that offers the best value. I think there's a historic, natural distrust on the part of designers and integrators of single-source solutions.”
For that reason, Berger says Loud has been careful to keep its eye on the product innovation ball rather than focusing on creating marketing synergies between brands. Though he'd welcome the idea of more customers specifying Loud family products, he says that will only happen if they're deemed the best technical solution.
Michael MacDonald, president of Pilot Business Strategies, an Agoura Hills, CA-based consulting firm focusing on the pro audio market, echoes Berger's take on the challenges manufacturers face in building out their product lines to include broader types of gear. Though some audio products manufacturers have made strides in that direction —more so than on the video side — MacDonald says manufacturers are up against some formidable obstacles, not the least of which is the lack of a set of standards that would make more seamless systems integration possible.
“In theory, there's a huge opportunity to improve AV system performance through tighter systems integration,” he says. “But that won't be fully realized until there's an open system of standards that allows everyone to participate. I don't think any manufacturer is going to be able to have a full complement of products across the board.”