Catching Up With... The Meridian Sooloos touchscreen interface
CustomRetailer: Over the past few years Meridian has debuted products designed to reach beyond the audiophile market. Can you talk about the marketing initiatives to support this effort?
Peter Wellikoff: Meridian is a very unique company. It’s two founders, Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd, are both still actively involved in the business after 35 years, and have complimentary disciplines (electronic design and industrial design, respectively). Thus, our product appeal is broader than a typical CE manufacturer.
While Bob’s technology is renowned in the audiophile market, Allen’s industrial designs have been timeless, elegant and very striking. If you were to look at our older 200 Series (1986) or 500 Series (1994) products, they’re still visually stunning. Meridian products don’t age like typical audio gear, especially to the design-conscious consumers. Other recent initiatives would include Meridian’s new automotive sounds systems for McLaren, Jaguar and Range Rover vehicles. This gives our dealers and us a huge access to a broad range of luxury consumers. In September, Meridian will be announcing another corporate partnership, which will enormously heighten brand awareness and introduce millions of consumers to Meridian.
CR: Industrial design has always been a hallmark of Meridian products. The M6 introduced at CES brought a radical change to the Meridian speaker line. How has the market received this design, and what else is Meridian offering to satisfy the decor-conscious consumer?
PW: Right out of the gate, the M6 was a global success; it gave Meridian a very appealing modern alternative to its current iconic speaker design. In an effort to expand our consumer base and, as they say, fish where the fish are, we have aggressively pursued the high net worth consumer market.
We’ve successfully achieved this by creative designs and various sales and marketing initiatives. This would include our Meridian Select Program that gives the client up to 250 RAL lacquer colors to choose from (which can be applied to both speakers and electronics).
In addition to this, some of these clients can’t or won’t shop in a typical store due to their celebrity or VIP status. Thus, they can either come to our NY SoHo Experience Center or opt for the Meridian Home Demo Program, in which we bring all the respective gear to the client’s home for demonstration and evaluation. This is clearly an example of functioning outside the box, and has realized huge incremental business with a very high close rate.
CR: Meridian has always touted the “system approach.” Tell our readers about the philosophy behind this approach, and how it works within the market.
PW: While all Meridian products can be purchased and used separately, their performance is optimized and streamlined when used within a Meridian system. The luxury, design-conscious and high net worth consumers all want to benefit from technology, and not be burdened by it. They’re typically not “into the gear,” but into the experience of enjoying home entertainment.
Meridian’s unique technologies allow us to do away with all the traditional boxes, cables and complex installations. All you have to do is to plug the power cable into a wall, run a Speakerlink cable, and you’re done! Our user interface, whether on our Control device or an iPad or another third party control system, are all simple and fun to use. Again, we’re not burdening the consumer with technology, but instead allowing them to benefit from it while offering best-in-class performance. and enhancing their home décor and lifestyle.
CR: What categories do you see driving the audio market right now? In which areas do you see future opportunities?
PW: Meridian’s Digital Media Systems have clearly delivered incremental growth for our dealers. This is a great category, which offers real solutions to consumers. It simply enables the user to have access to virtually all the music in the world, and makes your music truly interactive.
CR: What advice can you offer our readers for surviving and ultimately thriving in this new market landscape?
PW: Think outside the box, network and cross promote. I see too many of our business partners going back to the same well of consumers over and over again. We all need to expand and develop a new consumer base. Personally, I believe the greatest opportunity is with high net worth consumers. This is the segment of the population that is spending money, and lots of it. To achieve this, you need to work outside your existing network.
I know one Meridian retail partner that had a “luxury” event in his facility. He cross-promoted with a local jewelry store, high-end car dealership and restaurant. Every detail of the event was executed with the luxury buyer in mind. Targeted attendees were the combined network of those parties involved; thus, introducing Meridian products to a whole new audience. The event was a huge success. Think about cross promoting with other luxury complimentary brands. Combined, you all have a stronger appeal and presentation, and can refer business back to each other. CR
CR: With several worldwide boutiques opening around the world, what are the plans for Meridian stories here in the US?
PW: The first US based Meridian boutique will be located in Fort Lauderdale. The grand opening is expected this fall. We are currently in communication with two other existing partners about opening Meridian boutiques in the Mid-West and West Coast. This strategy is purely complimentary to our existing distribution and is independently owned. Currently there are 15 Meridian boutiques around the world in major international markets. They all have similar store designs; use the Meridian Shop-in-Shop merchandising displays and consistent presentation of our products. We are fully committed to maintaining a consistent position and message around the world. Meridian is a global luxury brand available in sixty markets.
CR: And finally, tell us about your plans for CEDIA.
PW: CEDIA is going to be a very exciting show for us. We have many new products being introduced. While I’m not prepared to ruin the surprise, one group of products is something that our partners have been pushing us for some time is desperately needed and will generate enormous amount of new business opportunities for us. It will be consistent with our core product designs and technologies. I urge everyone to stop by our exhibit at the Camral Room in the Westin Hotel.
Related story: Meridian Debuts Media Source 200, Loudspeakers