When Consumer Electronic Companies Launch Offbeat Products


Specific consumer electronic brands are known for specific products. What happens when they suddenly launch offbeat products, completely unconnected to their business?

Syska Earphones and Xiaomi Shoes!

Think Colgate for dental hygiene, Coke for colas, Servo for lubricants and Samsung for smartphones. Most iconic brands hinge their business around one single product and sometimes their variants.

Once in a blue moon, some of the brands decide to launch something bizarre, completely unrelated to what they are known for. In the nineties, MTV in India launched a range of deodorants called Urban Tribe. The millennials rushed to procure them in hoards. The plan was so successful that MTV started selling T-shirts and sunglasses under the Urban Tribe franchise. It was a gamble that paid off.

An example of the same followed by a consumer electronics company is Bosch and Siemens. The company has launched its range of cloth washing detergents in the country last year.

Why offbeat products work

One, the trust factor of the brand helps in people buying anything, literally anything it sells. Two, the brand is flaunt worthy so having any small piece of memorabilia from the brand becomes a status symbol. Pretty much like those overpriced Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts, another example of unrelated merchandise sale.

Variants are common

This strategy should not be confused with seasonal and geographical variants of products, that are released to create a sudden spike in sales.

During one of the world cups, Pepsi released a blue-coloured cola, telling Indians to support their team and ‘bleed blue’. The fad lasted for two months of cricket before Pepsi reverted to it’s original colour. Every year for St. Patrick’s day, a few pub chains offer green beer on tap!

New age brands; back to basics

Cut to 2019. A couple of brands are using this age-old product strategy, with a twist. The biggest example today is Xiaomi, the Chinese brand that is hugely successful in India as a value-for-money smart phone manufacturer. Logically, the brand started selling power banks.

But they did’nt stop there. Xiaomi today sells sports shoes and luggage. Leveraging on its fan following and community based information sharing, Xiaomi initiated a crowd sourcing activity to launch its range of sports shoes.

Currently, the second edition of its shoes for men is available on demand and priced at around Rs. 2500. The reputation that whatever the brand launches will be value-for-money is making Indians buy obscure products! While offline Xiaomi stores offer everything from rice cookers to nine bots those self balancing battery scooters, they have some element of tech in them but with suitcases and shoes, they have really taken the offbeat route.

Solving an age-old problem

Another recent example is Syska launching earphones. A brand that is known for lighting and power banks, has launched what it calls Ultrabass earphones that come with a TPE flat cable and offers a tangle free experience.

From Sony to Pioneer to Sanheiser, we’ve been struggling to untangle the wires and it took a Syska to solve this problem! They may not be great with sound technology, but finding a Syska earphone in a store will surely make you give it a second look. Another example of out-of-the-box product thinking.

Rumour has it that OnePlus will soon start selling coffee beans, that give you the same taste as the coffee in their flagship stores. Now, that’s raising the stakes to a whole new level!

This story has been submitted by Vishnu Anand. He is working as a technology and business journalist under the guidance of veteran journalist Anand Parthasarathy (Ex-The Hindu).