Posted by: Chris | July 6, 2007

Integrity for Selfish Purposes, Part 2

One thing I promised myself after I completed my MBA was that I was going to read what I wanted to read-not just what I was assigned to read-and while I do still spend time trying to sharpen the saw (just finished Purple Cow, just purchased Jim Cramer’s Real Money), I will regularly indulge myself in a particular guilty pleasure of mine I try to keep close to my vest: car audio. Without going into my long defense of car audio, suffice it to say, I’m not the type whose car is so low to the ground that sparks fly every time I hit a speed bump (which, by the way, has nothing to do with car audio anyway). Nor am I the type whose obnoxious thumping prevents others from enjoying their own car audio systems (but don’t think it couldn’t happen-thank you JL Audio). I simply appreciate high quality. So I have been “studying” car audio for the past 8 years-the duration of my uninterrupted subscription to Car Audio and Electronics which began just after the installation of my first system: a Kenwood flip-face head unit, Eclipse entry-level speakers (in front and back-rookie mistake), a 12-inch Kicker Comp VR, and 2 Kicker Impulse amps. I have pored over online car audio forums, and I have spent hours in my local shop talking to the best salesman I have ever worked with (who is, sadly, no longer there), Andy Karmach…I have no idea how to spell his last name. Anyway, over time, I began to isolate the very best products, whittling them down to a small handful of speaker, amp, and head unit brands. As I did this, I began to notice an interesting pattern: these brands rarely advertised, and the advertising they did purchase was very conservative. My research led me to an important corollary I have tried to keep in mind as I have purchased car audio equipment over the years: the quality of a product varies inversely with the trashiness of the girls in the company’s ads. I will not go into detail about the mediocre brands I am speaking of-I don’t want to give them the free advertising-but the “good” companies, companies like Focal, Alpine, Arc, JL Audio, and Audison, always seemed to have respectable, reputable advertising that focused solely on their products. Some companies like Sinfoni, Celestra, Milbert, Hertz, and USD have little to no advertising outside of their websites. I asked Andy about this once, and he told me that these companies have a very minimal advertising budget because they are sinking most of their cash into R&D. All of these companies rely on remarkable (to use Seth Godin’s very fitting word) product quality, delivery, and service to create buzz. It is not necessary for these companies to try to trick buyers into purchasing their products by filling magazine pages with some trashy, scantily clad girl they found participating in the bikini contest of the latest car audio competition. Their products simply speak for themselves. I will buy these products, not only because of their quality, but also because of the integrity of their brands. It’s just good marketing.

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