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Harman Makes Dealer Support Central to Plans

Elkhart, IN — Harman’s High Performance AV group is making dealer support central to its growth strategy for Lexicon, JBL Synthesis, Revel, and Mark Levinson. In the past six months, Harman has encouraged brand dealers to become group dealers, meaning that they carry all four lines, consolidate quotas, and benefit from an aggressive marketing program that includes web and print advertising and a soon-to-be-unveiled traveling demonstration road show.

According to Harman High Performance AV vice president of marketing Marc Kellom, the new program is timed to support the launch of exciting new products in all four brands that are priced and positioned to reach broad new markets.

“We view this current economy as an opportunity for Harman and our dealers to grow our market share and bring a host of high quality, highly innovative new products to the custom home electronics market,” Kellom said. “Our first step — to have all our dealers share this same ambition and approach — has been achieved, and now we’re actively supporting our dealers with strong marketing and compelling products. We’re looking forward to the CEDIA EXPO in Atlanta as a springboard for market growth, and we expect Harman dealers to be among the most optimistic and well-equipped attendees at the show.”

Kellom’s multi-tiered print advertising program includes national magazine properties that reach affluent communities where style and uncompromising performance are must-haves. ublications like Architectural Digest, Cigar Aficionado, Lexus Magazine, The Robb Report and Guitar Aficionado are central to his plan. In regional markets, Harman is supporting dealers with full-page product ads accompanied by one-third page facing strips listing the respective dealers in each region. Regional publications include Modern Luxury properties in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.

“In the luxury market, we’re experiencing considerably less of a downturn than we’d initially expected and we attribute this to the fact that affluent customers understand the performance leap they’re making when they choose our products,” Kellom noted. “The current market sentiment appears to be weighed against those who provide style-based advances and toward brands that offer performance improvements. Whereas Mark Levinson, Revel, and Lexicon make a strong aesthetic argument, they make an even stronger performance argument.”

Kellom also is determined to support dealers with local initiatives. Central to his program is a new 53-foot long (1,000-square-foot) expandable, customized trailer housing two demonstration suites and featuring an array of new products from JBL Synthesis, Revel, Lexicon, and Mark Levinson. The trailer, painted to double as a traveling billboard, will visit dealer sites to provide training and will host VIP customer demonstrations. Harman will also deploy the trailer for co-branding/cross promotions events at automotive dealers for its OEM partners. The trailer is likely to debut at the CEDIA EXPO.

“This is a program we’ve successfully deployed on the pro side of the business for many years now,” Kellom explained. “Dealers appreciate the one-on-one training and local market promotional support. They also appreciate the fact that when one of our trucks roll into town, that gives customers another reason to come visit their stores.”

Hand in hand with the marketing program, Harman is pursuing an aggressive product development program that will see more that 15 new products debut at CEDIA in Atlanta. Lexicon will introduce a BD30 Blu-ray player to accompany the MC12HD processor. Mark Levinson will introduce four amplifiers starting at the $6,000 price point. JBL will introduce the K2 S9900, which starts at $30,000 per pair, but will also debut a new series of floorstanding loudspeakers at $1,500 a pair. Revel will introduce the Rhythm 2 subwoofer and two in-wall speaker models. Synthesis will introduce a professional-grade room calibration technology.

All of these introductions support a product marketing strategy that seeks to empower dealers to comprehensively address customer needs: Dealers can reach out to Lexicon MC12 customers with a new firmware upgrade and the new BD-30 Blu-Ray player and can similarly upgrade Revel Salon 2 customers with the Rhythm 2 subwoofer designed especially to match the sonic performance and aesthetic look of the winning Revel Salon 2 tower loudspeaker. In addition, Harman will make select product SKUs from its JBL and Crown professional lines available to CEDIA dealers.

“We’ve been very careful to respect and protect each dealer’s current business and potential opportunity,” Kellom explained. “We’re seeing residential applications of pro-grade product, particularly in outdoor applications, and we’re confident that our pro-grade products can tick more boxes at better prices than what the market is currently getting. This will not impact pro dealers but it’s a significant growth opportunity for residential dealers and a performance win for their customers.”

Protecting dealers is central to Harman’s mission, and so the company is pursuing a strictly no-Internet dealer policy for the Revel, Lexicon, JBL Synthesis, and Mark Levinson brands. “We’ve made quite a few changes over the past 12 months,” Kellom acknowledged. “And whereas there is still a lot of work to do, we’re now confident that our high-performance AV dealers are best positioned, best promoted, and best equipped to grow their businesses in 2009, 2010 and beyond.”