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Tech21 Talk Taking Accessories Seriously: Colin Woodward On Building A Brand

Phone cases have become so ubiquitous in recent years that plenty of major handset vendors are often including them as part of the package. However, even before that, the idea of building a brand within the mobile accessories space would have raised an eye-brow.

We as consumers spend so much time weighing up the options when it comes to buying our device of choice – but often very little when it comes to buying the accessories that ensure our initial investment gets the protection it deserves.

It’s this idea that has led Tech21 down its current course. The company, their offices based along the River Thames, opened its doors a decade ago and has found great success in applying scientific methods and materials to an area where customers often opt for the cheapest available option.

According to Tech21’s CMO Colin Woodward, “our brand is all about trust. You can trust us to protect your phone but you can also trust everything we say about how well it protects.”

“I think it’s a case of a brand needs to be trusted. I think what we’re dealing with here is protecting someone’s $1000 investment.”

Woodward has had a lengthy career in technology marketing, boasting roles at Sony and HTC among others. When asked about how those positions have informed his current role, he says that “the biggest thing you can learn from a company like Sony is an understanding of what customers want – and that’s not just end-users but also channel partners.”

“We work really hard to make sure this proposition is easy for retailers to sell,” he says

He says that strong relationships with those companies is crucial for Tech21 because of their higher pricepoint. Phone cases by the company cost three times the market average, Woodward emphasizes the act of telling the company’s story as “fundamental” to the sale of their product.

He concedes that there are plenty of people who will be happy spending $5 for a case. “Unfortunately, they’ll realise they need protection when they drop their device,” he’s quick to add.

Tech21 boasts a team of engineers, designers and material scientists all based in-house. This, Woodward says, gives the company a stronger sense of ownership over their products and allows them to “optimize their performance.”

“We don’t buy case designs, we don’t buy case materials, it’s all proprietary,” he explains.

Woodward says they even order their own materials “to guarantee we comply with all the necessary tests and what have you when it comes to material composition”

Tech21 play an equally-involved role in the testing of their products.

“We test each case a minimum of 20 times,” Woodward says.

He explains that the company’s partnership with NPL (the National Physical Laboratory) is a big part of what separates them from other accessory companies.

As part of their partnership with the UK’s largest applied physics organization, they’re able to levy custom-built equipment and a unique testing methodology to push the boundaries of handset protection.

However, in recent years, Tech21 haven’t just been testing for durability but also performance.

Of course, their range of cases also subjected to the demands and testing regimes associated with the approved accessory programs run by Apple, Samsung, LG and Motorola.

“In many cases, they actually test our cases before they’re released to the public.”

“They test to make sure the phone has no negative impacts on the experience,” he says.

Woodward says that “what we see from phone manufacturers is that they’re focusing a lot on the form of the phone.”

“Their primary focus isn’t protection,” he says.

According to him, clear cases are a special challenge because they want to add protection without compromising the form factor and aesthetics of the device.

“Our job is to specialize in that area.”

Woodward also says that laptop and tablet cases are quickly proving themselves to be a growing category.

“They’re expensive devices – people are spending a lot of money on them – and we’re definitely seeing that is a trend,” he explains.

Woodward says that these categories have been a “fairly stable market over the last couple of years but we’re probably going to see some hardware innovation in the next couple of years.”

Regardless of how turbulent things get, he’s confident that Tech21 – like the cases they sell – are prepared to yield the best results.

Tech21 offer a variety of phone, tablet and laptop cases for Samsung, Google, Apple, HTC, Huawei, Sony and LG devices.

In Australia, they’re sold through JB Hi-Fi and Tech21’s own online website.