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Skullcandy:小众耳机的走红路线图

Richard Nieva 2011年11月29日

这家公司面向青少年和二十岁出头的用户推出了一款洛可可风格的耳机,它的热销让公司名声大噪。如今,公司在谋求发展的同时,也面临着如何留住核心消费者的问题。

    将音频设备作为一种时尚产品来出售并不是Skullcandy的首创。但通过这种做法,这家耳机及配件生产设计公司在短短几年内便经历了蓬勃的发展,成为青少年耳机市场的主导者。这个生活方式品牌的主要客户群是滑雪板和滑板爱好者。公司在今年7月上市。现在,公司一方面要继续发展,同时也要避免核心消费者的流失,因为他们才是公司的成功之本。

    Skullcandy公司于2003年成立于美国犹他州帕克市。目前,iPod采用白色耳机,而其他公司则仅有单调的黑色产品,Skullcandy则受到街头文化的启发,推出了彩色音频设备,让公司异军突起。公司推出的洛可可风格耳罩式耳机和插入式耳机专为极限运动爱好者量身定做,能在运动中保持固定,从而为公司赢得了创新的名声。公司成立以来,消费者对时尚耳机的需求便在不断增长,当然,这在很大程度上得益于智能手机的普及(智能手机同时也是音乐播放器)。索尼(Sony)、博士(Bose)和Beats by Dr. Dre等许多音响设备品牌都从这一趋势中受益匪浅。据美国市场研究公司NPD报告,去年,美国耳机市场的规模是20亿美元,比前一年增加了79%。

    虽然市场普遍繁荣,但Skullcandy的表现却最为突出:公司在刚刚过去的这个夏天宣布首次公开募股(IPO);目前,公司销售额比去年增加了57.5%;公司在八月份收购了位于瑞士苏黎世的57 North公司(公司的欧洲分销商),正式进军欧洲市场。虽然这些都是公司发展的利好消息,但同时也带来了潜在的问题。

    自从公司打出知名度之后,便一直困扰于过度曝光问题。公司CEO杰里米•安德鲁斯非常清楚,Skullcandy越成功,就越可能失去与核心客户的联系。他说:“我们每天都在讨论:怎样才能保持与核心消费者的联系?在公司发展早期,他们是我们唯一的客户,而现在,我们必须向当初一样一如既往地关注他们,这对我们的商业模式至关重要。”(公司前任CEO在公司开展IPO之前被辞退。)

    除了源源不断流入的利润,公司还发生了什么其他的变化呢?原先的滑雪板和滑板爱好者不再是唯一的客户了。最初,公司的产品仅在专卖店中出售,比如户外用品连锁店Zumiez或者Tilly's;而现在,任何一家大型零售商店中都能买到Skullcandy的产品,比如百思买(Best Buy)和苹果(Apple)专卖店。而这会带来过度曝光的风险。

    Skullcandy didn't invent the formula of selling audio gear as if it was fashion. But in a few short years, it has used it to grow a thriving business that dominates the headphone market among teens and twenty-somethings. The lifestyle brand -- which markets mainly to snowboarders and skateboarders -- went public this July. Now, Skullcandy must continue to grow without alienating the core customers that gave it legs to begin with.

    The company, founded in 2003 in Park City, Utah, made its mark selling colorful, street art-inspired audio gear in an iPod white or everyone-else-black world. Skullcandy (SKUL) earned a reputation for innovation, releasing rococo over-the-ear headphones as well as earbuds designed to stay put and tailored-made for its action sport crowd. The appetite for trendy headsets has grown since the company started, largely due to the ubiquity of smartphones that double as music players. Varied brands like Sony (SNE), Bose and the Beats by Dr. Dre have gotten a big boost from the trend. The US market for headphones this past year was $2 billion, up 79% from last year, according to NPD.

    Even in a booming market, Skullcandy has done remarkably well: a healthy IPO announced last summer; a 57.5% increase in sales from last year at this time; and the acquisition of Zurich, Switzerland company 57 North in August, which has marked Skullcandy's entry into Europe. These are good strides for the company, but they also bring potential problems.

    Overexposure has been a concern for the company ever since it first became stylish. CEO Jeremy Andrus is aware that the more successful Skullcandy becomes, the more it risks losing touch with its base. "The discussion we have everyday is: How do we remain relevant to the core consumer?" he says. "It's important to our business model to treat them as we did in the earliest days of the business, when they were our only customers." (The company's previous CEO was ousted one month before its IPO.)

    What's changed, besides an influx of profits? Hardcore snowboarders and skaters are not the only customers anymore. After initially being sold exclusively in specialty stores like Zumiez or Tilly's, now Skullcandy products are available at major retailers everywhere, including Best Buy (BBY) and Apple (AAPL) Stores. That risks over-exposure.

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