ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK: Big tech brands branch out to target niche buyers
In the past few weeks, two major global computer makers have launched sub-brands aimed at specific niche audiences, and a spin-off brand launched its first offerings in SA.
A company best known for its gaming machines, Acer, announced a new brand for creative professionals, ConceptD, aimed at the likes of architects and graphic designers.
"We noticed that 50% of people buying our gaming products were not involved with gaming," said Angelica Davila, senior marketing manager for Acer Latin America, at the New York launch. "They were looking for a product that was powerful enough to run their software and to do their everyday design work."
This week, the world's number one PC and printer maker, HP, lifted the lid on the new Stitch range, a portfolio of digital textile printers intended to accelerate commercial digital print adoption. The printers combine HP's Thermal Inkjet technology with industry-standard dyes for improved colour durability, helped along by the world's first built-in spectrophotometer to ensure fast and exact colour-matching.
"Decor and fashion application trends, on-demand production and personalisation are boosting digital print growth," said Santi Morera, head of Graphics Solutions Business at HP. "The digitally printed textiles market is experiencing double-digit annual growth, forecast to reach $5.5bn [R80bn] by 2023."
Meanwhile, a third manufacturer has launched a spin-off phone business that goes to great lengths to distance itself from its parent. Honor is a sub-brand within the Huawei Group, but shares little of the parent brand name's designs or styles. Originally conceived as a budget online brand in China six years ago, it went international a year later, and by 2016 had sold 60-million handsets. It tested the South African market last year via the Foschini Group, and finally made its formal arrival in SA last month, with the Honor 10 Lite.
It's a cool-looking phone, using gradient colours and unusual shades of blue, pink and black to differentiate itself from the flood of handsets available. Lightweight, and boasting one of the best front cameras - a 24 megapixel "selfie camera" - on the market, it is likely to appeal to the youth market.
The main selling point, however, is the price: less than R5,000 for a phone that looks like it should cost twice as much.
"Our brand proposition is young, innovative, and trend-setting," Honor SA CEO Raymond Liu told Business Times. "Our brand is young, the spirit is young and the target audience is young."
He said the brand achieves this differentiation not only through traditional research and development in technology, but also in aesthetics.
"We have two aesthetics research centres, one in Paris and one in Milan, both cities known for their design. We leverage the local talent there to contribute to our smartphone design in terms of colour and material that make our products outstanding."
SA, he said, "has always been a very welcoming market for new product innovation". When Honor decided to expand its overseas markets, it saw this country as the most important market in Africa.
• Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee