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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。

    每一家增长迅速的公司都会面临如何平衡增长与新鲜感的问题——本杰里公司(Ben and Jerry's)就是最经典的例子,但现在看来,Skullcandy所面临的问题尤为突出;因为,这家公司的命运直接取决于青年亚文化群体是否认为公司的产品够酷。丧失这种感觉究竟有多容易?品牌专家迪恩•克拉奇菲尔德认为:“很容易就会丢失。这是一种很微妙的东西。”克拉奇菲尔德目前在国际企业发展咨询公司Caffeine担任CEO。

    安德鲁斯表示,他有办法帮助公司避免这种后果:虽然全国性零售商为公司带来了大笔收入,但公司依然投入大量资金,在小型专卖店中开展营销。到底青年亚文化群体在整个市场中占多大比例?安德鲁斯不愿对此发表评论,但他说“他们所占的比例非常高”。他认为这并非没有效率,而是一项长期投资。他说:“我们的核心消费者,也就是那些走进滑板商店或者生活方式商店的人,他们都是‘引导潮流的人’。”

    这种策略可以帮助Skullcandy维护与核心消费者的关系。极限运动文化为许多小公司带来了额外的价值:名不见经传的品牌、地方商店、隐蔽的滑板场所等。打破传统的耳机设计就是要让用户表现出自己的特立独行。克拉奇菲尔德认为:“这样的设计就是要表现出一个群体的独特观点和态度。”红牛(Red Bull)能量饮料和万斯(Vans)鞋等品牌,即便经过多年的高速增长,依然采取过类似的措施。

    公司目前仍在经历着更多的变化:公司计划扩大游戏耳机产品线,并将在2012年推出更高端的耳机型号。克拉奇菲尔德称,在公司扩张的过程中,要想实现成功发展,就要持续不断地培育终身的核心用户群。他说道:“还记得当年那位15岁的滑雪少年吗?或许他现在已经成家立业,但他依然会保持独特的时尚态度,依然属于‘潮人’一族。”到目前为止,在维护核心客户方面,Skullcandy做得不错。但真正的考验在于,如何避免像其他流行趋势一样昙花一现,最终落得过时的下场。

    译者:阿龙/汪皓

    Every burgeoning company faces a balancing act between growth and freshness -- Ben and Jerry's is a classic example -- but it seems to be more of an issue for Skullcandy because the brand's fate is hinged so directly on a youth subculture deeming its products cool. How easy is that to lose? "Easy. So easy. It's very delicate," says Dean Crutchfield, branding expert and CEO of Caffeine, an international business growth consultancy.

    Andrus believes he has an approach that he says will help the company avoid a backlash: spending a large chunk of marketing dollars on those smaller specialty stores, even though the national retailers bring in the bulk of revenue. Andrus declined to comment on just how much of the pie goes toward that demographic, but says it is "a very high percentage." He sees it as a long-term investment, as opposed to an inefficiency. "That kid -- that core customer walking into a skate shop or a lifestyle shop -- that individual is a trendsetter," he says.

    That strategy could help Skullcandy maintain its connection to its roots. Action sports cultures place a premium value on obscurity: lesser known bands, local shops, hidden skate spots. Off the wall headphone designs were meant to give users a distinct means of expression. "It's about a unique point of view, the attitude of a tribe," says Crutchfield, the branding expert. Brands like Red Bull energy drinks and Vans shoes have pulled off similar moves, even after years of plentiful growth.

    Even more changes are underway for the company: it seeks to expand its line of gaming headsets and has a higher end headphone model in the pipeline for 2012. As it expands, successful growth will mean nurturing its core crowd throughout an entire lifetime, says Crutchfield. "Remember that 15-year-old snowboarder?" he says. "Well, maybe he's married now. But he's still got that bit of attitude, right?" Skullcandy has served its tribe well so far. Its true test will be avoiding becoming just another fashion trend that, eventually, went out of style.

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