As a consumer electronics brand, Belkin built a brand over 30 years under the premise that it can help consumers’ disparate devices work together. Beginning with computer peripherals up through wireless networking, Belkin has worked to (according to its Web site) connect people “to the people, activities and experiences [they] love.” As the Internet of Things and home automation have grown as a category, Belkin introduced the WeMo line of home automation products to bring connectivity to products from light switches to coffeepots and slow cookers (via partnerships with Mr. Coffee and Crock-Pot). Chief Marketing Officer Kieran Hannon answered Marketing Daily’s questions about the Internet of Things, and Belkin/WeMo’s place in them.
Q: How does your brand fit into the home automation category?
A: We’re still seeing things evolve in the home automation space. If we were not the first to market, we were one of the first to market with our WeMo switch product. But if you dial back from there, this company has over 30 years [experience]. This company was founded on the innovation of connecting an Apple II to a printer. It was the first product we developed. We’ve been watching different trends over the years, and we’re very comfortable navigating the trends.
Q: At this point, how much of your WeMo marketing efforts have to go toward consumer education?
A: As the leader in that space, we are educating people about how to use these products and how they can benefit your life. If you go to WeMothat.com, that’s a great example of the many things that are available to help educate the marketplace. We’re doing a lot of education in the marketplace -- not only in general marketing, but much more importantly in-store and in thought leadership across the board.
Q: Why establish a WeMo brand vs. using Belkin as a home automation brand?
A: WeMo was a product that was developed as a Belkin brand. It’s just in a slightly different space than the Belkin brand. Belkin is in the space of “We don’t make your devices. We make your devices better.” It’s a slightly different space [than in home automation]. It’s a different consumer premise. So we made a decision to pull WeMo out as its own stand-alone brand, and give it the focus attention and resources to blossom in the marketplace.
Q: Is it harder or easier to build it away from Belkin?
A: It definitely helps being a part of Belkin with our retail relationships. That’s a huge benefit we’ve had. Also, our R&D [people] are networking with the [Belkin] brands and the quality of our engineers and designers are able to provide that thinking behind the scenes with WeMo. We’ve certainly been able to benefit from that with that integration from a corporate standpoint. But from a brand standpoint, it’s important to be able to tell our own story.
Q: Where are consumers on the continuum of the Internet of Things?
A: A continuum implies it is a straight line going from left to right. I would say it’s a circle. and they’re coming into it in different ways. They’re coming into it with specific needs that they have, like a switch that’s plugging in an iron or a table lamp. They can also come into it through appliances in the kitchen. Their journeys take different paths, and that journey then expands and allows them to do other things. They get a rich experience initially, and they realize they can do a lot more. And then we help them with that journey.
Q: How do you your strategies change as they move along that circle?
A: It’s really about creating that personal relationship. The strategy itself doesn’t change -- it’s how the message evolves. If I came in through Crock-Pot, it’s a different experience than if you came in through our lighting products. Then it can expand over time. It’s really allowing people to use these devices in a way that makes their lives so much better.
Q: How do you get the attention for your brand with so much happening in the category?
A: Our strength is in the relationships in the retail channel, and telling those stories -- whether online or in-store -- is really important. And letting people know whether they work in a singular fashion. It really is your life, your way of doing things, and how it fits your lifestyle.
Q: What have you found that works and doesn’t work to get them to understand it all?
A: It’s very clear the market has rapidly accelerated from an “early adopter” to an “early majority” marketplace. Within our retail channels, the typical customer base buying the products had definitely evolved. It’s a marketplace that’s rapidly educating itself.
Q: What happens in the next nine months?
A: The market is seeing new devices each and every day. We are very much sticking to the strategy of creating the superior user experiences, spending a lot of time on the software integration that we have, and the app itself is continuing to evolve and improve. The users and feedback we get within our communities and how we integrate it is very important.
Check out my video on the Belkin WeMo Light Switch! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BchaJ41pa9M