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COMMENT: The Last Thing OZ Needs Is Another Hi Fi Brand

The last thing that Australia needs is a new sound distributor but this seems to be something that the directors at the so called new Hi Fi Collective, a New Zealand linked audio distribution operation, seems to have ignored despite failing with the Focal and Naim brands that are better known than their latest unknown offering Totem Acoustic.

Currently Australia has more sound distributors than we have specialist audio retailers, with most sound specialists either struggling to make money, wallowing in debt or desperately trying to sell a business that in a lot of cases is well past their value dates, so the last thing they need is another audio brand that take them away from selling the brands they already stock.

The biggest problem for retailers apart from cash flow is a noticeable lack of digital marketing skills, many believe that simply having a web site is enough to bring customers in the door, some even go as far as occasionally putting out a periodical EDM to the very few customers whose digital data they have managed to capture.

Today’s millennial the ones with money a job and in a lot of cases a passion for music, are not going to invest in an unknown brand such as Totem Acoustic.

In the past N.A Distribution did a lousy job of marketing the Naim and Focal brands which is why the Company was dumped after less than two years. What’s interesting is that they have moved to launch a new name in Australia rather that use their existing New Zealand distribution name.

Now they want retailers to take on a brand that several distributors were offered but rejected according to sources.

A quick trip around the Totem Acoustic web site is a less than inspiring experience, bookshelf speakers that look ordinary and claims that their products deliver a ‘Revolutionary Experience’ a claim that most sound Companies make.

Today it’s all about brand marketing and the trust that consumers place in a brand. You only have to look at what Sonos did with very average sound technology, they had consumers believing that the Sonos product was a premium must have brand despite it only being 16bit audio technology.

Now we have Chris Murphy from N.A Distributors in New Zealand and Gareth Weller a former Synergy executive out there trying to get retailers to firstly stock the Totem Acoustic brand while at the same time getting retailers to market the brand because their track record in brand marketing with both Naim and Focal is to say the least poor at best.

What Australian Hi Fi retailers need to come to grips with is that it’s not about stuffing a retail store with as many brands as their cash flow supports or what distributors are prepared to give retailers on consignment it’s all about less brands and more effort in selling a refined list of products.

What is frightening is the amount of specialist audio dealers who are using credit cards to pay for stock while pleading for additional or better terms because their banks have said “no more”.

The whole specialist audio industry is too say the least fragile and if it is to survive, it has to off the back of brands that distributors in partnership with their brand partners are prepared to invest in brand marketing to reaching a new generation of millennials who want not only good looking hardware that delivers great sound but operate in a digital world.

Today a great deal of Hi Fi retailers are still relying on their old customers who are either dying or are now retired and don’t have the money to invest in $10,000 unknown brands such as Totem Acoustic.

HiFi Collective claims that they will deliver a new adventure in HiFi to the Australian market, but the only problem was they failed to tell the market how they intended to do this outside of some tired old press release.

Earlier this year N.A Distribution was hit hard when Busisoft AV stripped them of two key accounts now after regrouping their answer to the problem is to try and stuff the channel with yet another brand that retailers are going to struggle to sell.

Together, they’ve curated a small and select range of leading home audio products that they say bring music-lovers closer to their music collections.

In a recent interview Murphy said that after some soul-searching, he decided that he wanted to return to spending time on the things that really matter – music, relationships, and great customer service. He forgot to mention the most important element today brand marketing.

I guarantee you that if I walked along the coffee shops at Balmoral a Mosman suburb that has serious money to spend on audio or Toorak or Hawthorn in Victoria and mentioned AURALiC, AVM, Fink Team, Fyne Audio, Heed Audio, Totem Acoustic, and Vertere Acoustics I would get blank stares as most people would have never hear of these brands but they do know Sonos, Martin Logan, Denon, Marantz, Harman Kardon or Bowers & Wilkins for the simple reason that these brands actually spend money on marketing and they are prepared to take marketing risks to reach todays key millennial consumer.

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