Lessons Learned from Massive Audio’s Geeky Fametek Spin-off
Introducing Fametek. For the last couple of years, people visiting Las Vegas for CES may have noticed a Dalek, Doctor Who’s most persistent enemy, roaming in front of a booth at the edge of the iLounge. Those who wandered the show were sure to see it. The cyborg crafted mostly of speakers was a selfie-worthy prop destined to be part of any visual survey of the show.
What people didn’t see was the profound effect popular culture was having on auto audio maker Massive Audio. The Dalek and the enormous backdrop of Doctor Who actors Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, while a marketing stunt, were also a harbinger of things to come for the company.
When the BBC-licensed Doctor Who Bluetooth TARDIS speaker shipped it was at first difficult for the company to meet demand. As the months passed, it was clear that the Doctor Who speaker would be one of the top products in Massive Audio’s history, in terms of revenue and volume.
Doctor, I have a feeling we aren’t on Gallifrey any more
For a company focused on amps and speakers, mostly for automobile audio upgrades, licensing, marketing and support models proved very different for these more widely appealing consumer products. Several lessons learned emerged as they refined their strategy and created a business that made sense for the products, the customers and the channel.
Hone messages for your audience. The company quickly discovered that their diverse audiences seldom ever met. In order to best serve those audiences they had to start by splitting messaging and targeting audiences with the messages and products they cared about.
Product strategy: less is more. The company also realized the pop culture audience needed its own content, content not cluttered by the company’s 200+ legacy products. Even a TARDIS could get lost in there. A new website would also allow them to tailor support for set-up and firmware upgrades, as well as offer a more well-tuned news channel.
Work with the right partners who can help you achieve your goals. And then there were the retailers. Massive Audio retailers and distributors didn’t have the demographic reach needed for the mass consumer markets. Their largest car audio retailer had only 30 stores. They wanted to court the likes of ThinkGeek, Gamestop and Hot Topic, retailers with shopping center and mall access, and top-notch e-commerce capabilities targeted to the right audience.
Create a business entity that makes sense. So Massive audio launched Fametek (www.fametek.com) in 2016 as a division focused on creating unique functional collectables for fans of popular television shows and movies. They derived their name from “Famous Technology.” The new division still offers the iconic Doctor Who TARDIS and Dalek speakers, including a new “Bad Wolf” variant of the TARDIS.
Business transformation requires a commitment to learning, even when the market disruption erupts from internal strategy. When a business recognizes that one of its products lines may be technologically similar, but serves a different market strategically, the kind of move that Massive Audio made is a one more organizations should undertake. Rather than trying to navigate a disruptive wave through the status quo, create a business model that makes sense to the new circumstances.
Forecasting the future
Fametek is growing their pop culture collections in 2016 and expects to see a number of tie-in products from current pop culture and cult classic ranges by the Holidays. With the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek just around the corner, Fametek will be bringing 6-inch Star Trek Bluetooth figure speakers of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock to market complete with 9 different sound clips from each character from the original series. They are also shipping what is likely to be a coveted collectible: a Bluetooth Comm Badge that works just as it did in Star Trek The Next Generation. Press the pin for the classic chirp sound effects, and talk to callers hands-free—even use it as a universal translator with Google translation. The marketing and distribution split, however, still allows the two divisions to collaborate on engineering, meaning that the audio products, despite looking like Captain Kirk, will include well-engineered components from the audio and electronics teams at Massive Audio that has over 30 years of engineering background.
From the TARDIS to Mr. Spock, this shift from big subwoofers and overpowering amps was a journey of passion. Jeremy Larsson, Director of licensing for Fametek, shared that the company “chooses characters that we love first and foremost. We may not have a vast collection of everything pop culture, but the characters we do develop; we do so as fans and not as merchandisers.”
The uptake on licensed products has been tremendous, and it might well be the little geek division of Massive Audio, launched to help sell a speaker with bigger sound on the inside, might overtake the parent company in sales in the not too distant future. Only a time traveler could possibly know if that happens or not. In the meantime, any manufacturing company that wants to leverage the growth of licensed products could learn from Massive Audio’s experience.
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Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.