Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.
Column #41 (09/27/02)
Branding, Corrections, and Other Odds and Ends
Branding Dilemma: What If A Walkman Isn't A Sony?
If you're a brand manager or marketing manager, one of the groups of people you have to make happy are your lawyers, who are always trying to make your licenses more restrictive, your trademarks more durable, and your life more difficult. How so? If you're in marketing, you want your brand to own its category (ex: if you're Acme and you sell widgets, you want people calling widgets, "Acme's") and legal is always throwing up roadblocks, claiming the sky will fall.
This isn't as obscure as you might think: Xerox has been battling this issue for decades (with its company name, not even a specific product designation), and one of the primary reasons Intel renamed its consumer microprocessor line the "Pentium" was because competitors had argued that the "x86" names Intel had been using ("386," "486," etc.) were generic.
Well, give the boys in suits their due, because the sky has fallen. On Sony. Austria's Supreme Court ruled recently that - at least in Austria - "Walkman" has become generic, and the name does not refer to a specific product or product line from Japan's Sony Corporation. This means that anyone who wants to call their product a "Walkman" in Austria can go right ahead.
I don't know much about international legal precedents (I'm a marketing expert, not a lawyer), but I'm sure someone will try to use this decision to break Sony's trademark elsewhere in Europe, and then, the world!
Column Corrections and Follow-Ups
Isn't an online column wonderful? In addition to appearing here, I have put these additions/corrections in the column files themselves. If only The New York Times would follow my lead...
Column 39 Correction
In Column 39 (8/19/02) HDTV Update: Mandates, Promises, and Mergers, I noted that, due to the 9/11/01 terrorist attack, there are no terrestrial (over the air) HDTV broadcasts in the New York area, as the HDTV antennas were all located at the World Trade Center. In fact, CBS is still broadcasting its HDTV programming in Manhattan from the Empire State Building.
Column 38 Corrections
In Column 38 (8/5/02) Product Review: Visual Communicator, I noted that there were several shortcomings to the initial version of the software, including poor audio quality and the inability to do any editing whatsoever after recording. Serious Magic has proven to be quite responsive. First, the CEO contacted me to assure me that the Serious Magic-supplied microphone must be defective (he promised a replacement that still hasn't arrived), and indicated that improvements in the program would be released shortly. I tested another microphone I had on hand and confirmed that the poor audio quality was due to the mic, not the program.
Serious Image has kept their word on product improvements as well. They recently posted updates to Visual Communicator; most changes are minor, plus a few significant upgrades:
Column 30 Follow Up
I recently purchased a Klipsch speaker from an online retailer at a significant discount from a local brick and mortar retailer's price. At first I thought the discount was due to the lower overhead costs faced by the online retailer. However, after some research it appears that the lower price is the result of my buying from an "unauthorized dealer". What is it about this unauthorized status that enables them to sell at such discounted rates? Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
I touched on this briefly in Column 30: Authorization Denied: Dealing with Sales Channel Management. It could be one or a combination of several things:
Column 12 Follow Up
One reader wrote in to comment on Column 12 (11/12/01): Why Are All Speakers Black?, noting that Paradigm has several bookshelf models you can order in a number of finishes, including white. I have confirmed this on their web site; I have also auditioned Paradigm speakers at retailers over the years; at each price point they tend to offer solid value.
Column 5 Update
At the end of Column 5 (9/24/01): The Dark Side of Successful Product Marketing: Bose, I suggested that if your space and/or aesthetics dictate the need for itty bitty speakers, you should consider Gallo Acoustics' line of shiny metal grapefruit-looking speakers. I have since had a chance to audition them at a retailer, and while the fault may lie with the setup or the relatively large room they were in, I was not impressed. The round footstool-like bass module put out nice tight bass, but was not integrated well with the satellites, nor did the satellites convey details I knew to be in the music. The treble on a similarly priced Bose Lifestyle system in the same room sounded much better to my ears, though the bass from the Bose bandpass subwoofer was not as taut.
I have also had a chance to listen to Bose's simplified 3-2-1 speaker system at a different retailer. This system is supposed to provide simple setup and realistic surround sound from just a pair of speakers (one on your TV, the other behind you). I can't vouch for the setup, because it was already assembled. But the surround sound part simply didn't work.
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