TCL dispelling Chinese myths and leading the Ultra HD revolution, with the help of retailers

TCL Andrew Gaze

Basketballer Andrew Gaze at the launch of TCL’s 2014 Ultra HD TV range.

The focus was on convincing Australians that TCL was a reliable, upmarket, design-focused brand – in short, dispelling pejorative Chinese attributes, when 5-time Olympian and former NBA basketballer Andrew Gaze played host in Melbourne at the launch of TCL’s 2014 Ultra HD TV range.

With Sony cancelling a press conference to launch its 2014 TV range, TCL was the debut brand to reveal its 2014 collection, which mostly comprises flat Ultra HD Smart TVs, while there are also Curved LED and flat OLED panels and Android TVs waiting in the wings.

Ultra HD, also known as 4K, is four times the resolution of Full HD: 3,840 x 2,160. This makes TV panels extremely vivid and brightly coloured, with whiter whites and blacker blacks. The biggest challenge to these TVs at launch is the dire lack of native 4K content, with most TV programs and films having to be upscaled to 4K.

The new ranges will be promoted by a global partnership with the new X-Men: Days of Future Past film and a TVC campaign that conflates the New York subway, the catwalks of Paris, a Tokyo garage band and the London rain, all brought together with the new masterbrand: “The Future is Now”.

Kevin Wang, TCL’s general manager of its overseas business centre, started the presentation by outlining the TCL story. The company was founded in 1981 and has since grown to be the largest home entertainment manufacturer in China. “Last year, we were ranked #3 in global LCD TV shipments with 6.5 per cent and we have ambition for an even higher position. We will continue to evolve and innovate.”

TCL plans on using its brand ambassador Andrew Gaze, more film tie-ins and advertising to build brand awareness, Wang said. He also emphasised that TCL was, “The only manufacturer in China that can make its own panels and TCL Australia has a direct link to this factory.”

The next presenter was TCL Australia managing director Harry Wu. He recounted how, since launching locally in 2004 with Paul Widders at the helm, TCL has mostly promoted itself through sporting partnerships.

“TCL has been here for 10 years, introduced to Australians through its sponsorships of the Australian Open, the cricket and AFL and almost a decade as the official TV supplier to the Melbourne Cup Carnival,” Wu said. TCL representatives confirmed that the company will continue to promote itself to Australia consumers through sports, which it referred to as “immersive” marketing.

“Our ambition for Australia is to be in the top three TV brands,” Wu said. “We are making incredible, state-of-the-art technologies. We are in ongoing discussion with retailers to expand into other categories, including both home entertainment and home appliances.”

Next up was national sales manager Nick Redmond. Throughout his presentation, Redmond continually brought up the apparent fact that the ‘five major Australian groups’ – presumably Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and three of the larger Narta members – were supporting this launch with core ranging. Redmond prevaricated from naming the groups, saying that “all will be revealed in the coming weeks”.

“We’re building brand equity with retailers from the commodity range up to the premium Curved and Ultra HD ranges,” Redmond said. “From 40 to 85 inches, these TVs are going in to all key retail stores, all five of our major partners. We’re the first to bring into Australia a 40-inch Ultra HD TV. It’s launching with the other models in April. It shows how far we’ve come since launching that we are in all major retailers.”

Having the experienced Redmond on board gives TCL key insights into the local market. He made a point of saying that TCL had headhunted Flemming Petersen from Bang & Olufsen to be the company’s new global design chief. “If a consumer is going to put this TV in their home it needs to look good and complement their home,” Redmond said.

I think it is fair to say Chinese TV brands have neglected this important design aspect, allowing the Japanese and Korean brands to dominate the side-by-side comparisons at the TV walls inside retail stores.

“We can confidently say that the product will stand up against the best in the world and sell in the Australian market. The Australian consumer has to be proud to have this in their home, it has to be an aspirational brand. We are working with retailers to secure pride of place in stores.”

TCL’s new Ultra HD range will come in 40-, 50-, 55-, 65- and 85-inch sizes. All feature a 3D playback option and Smart functionality that comprises a live TV window, social media and third party apps, and an Opera web browser. TCL has affixed some very competitive RRPs to these TVs:

40-inch – RRP $799
50-inch – RRP $1,299
55-inch – RRP $1,999
65-inch – RRP $2,999
85-inch – RRP $9,999

There are also Android-powered Smart TVs in the TCL range, though there are no firm release dates on these models. There are also TCL OLED TVs but, again, no scheduled release.

“Global strategy is all about Ultra HD. OLED is an important aspect but for us it is all about Ultra HD,” Redmond said. “We’re focusing on delivering high quality, cutting edge screens at a price that will be attractive to the Australian consumer and building trust in those three letters: TCL.”

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