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Consumer Electronics Association Washington Forum
March 26-27
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

The Industry: consumer electronics

The Attendees: 291 digital patriots battling content-monopolizing protectionist monoliths for consumers’ freedom to enjoy and time-shift media for noncommercial purposes

The Issues:

Obsolete-TV Wasteland: As consumers upgrade to DTV, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and other next-generation technologies, landfills will fill with e-waste. The pile will mount as analog TVs are discarded in anticipation of Feb. 17, 2009, when all U.S. broadcasts go exclusively digital. While some 25 states are considering e-cycling legislation, industry folks have faith in voluntary electronics recycling programs. Said one: “We’re entrepreneurial, libertarian, and believe government’s role should be limited.” The CEA debuted myGreenElectronics.org, which will “educate consumers about the responsible purchasing, enjoyment and disposal of electronics.”

Dude, It’s a Dinosaur: CEA honoree Michael Dell announced a D.C. Earth Day event: Bring your old computers to Freedom Plaza and his company will recycle them.

Tune Out: Executive coach Bill Howe shared rapid-fire “Pragmatic Marketing” advice: Research indicates the biggest turn-off word among potential clients is “relationship.” Dangerous strategies include competing on price, since “there is always some fool who is willing to go into bankruptcy faster than you.” Check out “kamikaze marketing”ndirecting a frontal assault against a competitor with a bigger war chest. And beware a weak “Signal-to-Noise Ratio,” i.e., marketing messaging that misses your targets’ WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

OOPS: Howe offered his formula for marketing failure: OOS = OOM = OOB (Out Of Sight is Out Of Mind and Out Of Mind is Out Of Business).

I Want My MP3: MP3 player unit factory sales jumped from 3,031,000 in 2003 to 34,317,000 in 2006. Having evolved into “electronic Swiss army knives,” wireless phones and PDAs accounted for 125 million units and $17 billion in sales last year.

Fashion Statement: Multi-color Bluetooth headsets, gem-encrusted cell-phone covers-accessories ring up some of the CE industry’s highest profit margins, accounting for nearly $4 billion in sales for 2006. “For many consumers, especially teenagers,” noted a study released at the event, “half of the pleasure of owning an MP3 player, mobile phone, digital camera or Blackberry is in selecting a case or cover that communicates your individuality.”

Digital Souk: Wealth, the weak U.S. dollar, expats, deregulation, and tech envy have made the Middle East among the fastest emerging markets for consumer electronics. Tips: understand the religion and Muslim law, get a local partner to navigate the unique business practices, and meet in person over many cups of tea to develop trust.

Cheers: Executive coach Michael Synk presented his Cheers business-building model matrix of marketing. You want Norms—high actual value and high strategic value. Also useful: Cliffs (high actual value and low strategic value) and Frasiers (low actual value and high strategic value). Redirect those below-zero (aka “bozo”) Liliths to your competitors. Want prospects to remember your message? Repeat it so often that people make fun of you.

Don’t Touch That Dial: Targeting personal, noncommercial time-shifting and place-shifting of lawfully acquired content, Big Music is behind the lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio, and proposed legislation for the Audio Broadcast Flag Licensing Act, Perform Act, and Copyright Modernization Act.