Soundbites 2014: Convoy International channelling brand growth in a post Dre world

Over the coming days and weeks at Appliance Retailer we’ll be looking at the Australian audio market, finding out what the leading brands and suppliers are up to and looking at the best new products available.

(Part I: Yamaha)
(Part II: Parrot)

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B&W Bowers & Wilkins P5-Maserati-left-facing

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Maserati Edition (RRP $549).

Even after handing over the voluminous Beats by Dre distribution to Ingram Micro, Convoy International remains a powerful force in the Australian audio market; home to global brands including Sol Republic, Bowers & Wilkins, Harman/Kardon, Monster, JBL and Aerial7.

After a row with Yamaha, JB Hi-Fi invited Convoy International to fill the space vacated by the Japanese vendor, meaning Convoy had even more scope to push its headphones, docks and speakers onto the market. With this extra retail real estate, it’s no surprise that Sol Republic headphone, especially, are becoming a lot more prominent out in the wild (or, at least, the Sydney CBD).

The man heading up Convoy’s marketing department is Sohan Karunaratne, a widely admired ex-Harvey Norman head office buyer and store manager. Karunaratne’s experience with channel management, having worked on both sides of the aisle, has been a major part of Convoy’s maintaining momentum in a post-Dre world.

“As a headphones and audio brand distributor, we’ve been in the business for over 40 years, and have seen a range of trends and issues affect the market,” Karunaratne said.

“Currently, it’s all about wireless. Technology, particularly in the audio space, is moving towards accessibility and convenience for the consumer. Is it accessible on the go? Can it fit my gym bag, pocket and/or handbag? Does it suit my routine?

“We’re seeing products evolve towards adapting to an individual’s lifestyle, rather than a consumer choosing a product based solely on their capabilities.”

Convoy isn’t the only audio vendor marketing attractive audio products and Karunaratne readily admits that “with so many SKUs (stock keeping units) in retail outlets, brand messaging can be easily lost or drowned out” and that’s why he has brought on a PR company to push Convoy’s brands onto the consumer media and worked with his sales team to create what he calls a “guerrilla training team” to visit retailers, hold training days and promote the myriad brands. It isn’t easy to stand out in such a convoluted marketplace and without investment, audio brands will simply fade from public consciousness.

“From our website development, social media and social PR, advertising, retail training and experiential marketing,” Karunaratne detailed, “it’s all about creating the best, and most informed, experience for the consumer.”

In addition to stylish and expensive headphones carrying the famous Maserati Trident marque, Convoy is also riding the wireless speaker craze:

From a distance, Sol Republic's Deck looks like the river flowing through a desert.

From a distance, Sol Republic’s Deck looks like the river flowing through a desert.

“Products are more about multipurpose ability now and enhancing your day-to-day activities, rather than merely being devices with which you listen to music,” continued  Karunaratne. “The JBL Pulse and Sol Republic Deck are an example of how portable speakers have really embraced users’ desire to share content, which fundamentally changes how we experience music, making it more social.”

Next in our Soundbites series, we say ‘guten tag’ to Sennheiser International

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