5-Minute Interview: Mark Pickard
Director of marketing at Sonance since June 11, Mark Pickard began his career in aerospace engineering at Northrup Grumman. His intro to the pro AV industry was working on displays for a video company, followed by six years at Epson, he then time spent at Toshiba and Samsung.
Director of marketing at Sonance since June 11, he began his career in aerospace engineering at Northrup Grumman. His intro to the pro AV industry was working on displays for a video company, followed by six years at Epson, he then time spent at Toshiba and Samsung.
Pro AV:You're one of the rare AV executives who has seen both sides of the A and V equation. What do you think are the differences between what customers need from video equipment versus audio equipment?
Pickard: The thing that I find most significant is that, in the video side, a perfect picture can be defined. There are standards that define what a perfect picture would look like. Of course that's very difficult to achieve, but it can be measured using appropriate test patterns and the like. The standard for perfect audio could be considered a flat frequency response, but it seems that audio equipment relies more on personal preference than perfect quality.
Pro AV: What kinds of similarities are you finding between audio and video needs?
Pickard: The recommendations of the recognized experts in the field are still critically important. On the video side, because it's so difficult to achieve that perfect image without using test patterns — and because the customers do not typically look at test patterns — you need to be able to communicate your image quality to the experts and convince them you have that high-level performance. With audio, it's very similar; you need to convince experts so they can recommend your product to the customer.
Pro AV: What role do architects and interior designers play — if any — in the design of your company's products?
Pickard: They are critical in helping define what we call the “visual performance.” Where audio performance is signals, signal reproduction, and things like that, the visual performance is the “look” and how the product integrates into the space it's being considered for. So the interior designer is going to think primarily about the visual look and may be completely unconcerned with the audio performance. The stakeholders for the project are, of course, going to be concerned with the audio performance. But the interior designer, specifically, may be completely unconcerned about that, so we are working with designers to make sure that our products integrate well into the design space.
Pro AV: How is selling to the custom installer channel different than the pro AV systems integration channel?
Pickard: They're very similar. Of course there are the practical concerns that are essentially identical: Customers need the products that meet the requirements at the right time at the right place. On the commercial side, there is less consideration for the aesthetics, because — particularly on the video side — everybody looks pretty much the same. There are slight styling cues, so those of us in the business can identify brand differences but users typically cannot. On the audio side, it's very similar: Once a product's installed, if you use the traditional look, it's hard to tell the difference. That's one of the reasons why we've approached the design considerations that we have.
Pro AV: Having been involved with both audio and video systems marketing, which do you think is easier to sell?
Pickard: Neither is easy. If you have strong differentiations, that makes it comparatively easy. One of the difficulties of the video segments that I left behind is that you have a handful of large Asian manufacturers all going down pretty much the same path. You'll see displays from everybody at 1920 x 1080; once you have very good video performance all at the same resolution, and all with a very similar look, how do you then differentiate? So I find that to be a much more difficult proposition today than my current situation in audio.