Vancouver’s Logitech, wacom employ unique strategies to reach holiday shoppers

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

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With the 2010 holiday shopping season fast approaching, the consumer electronics industry is seeking new ways to convince customers to open their wallets. Even with consumer confidence low and unemployment high, the industry expects this to be the best year yet for consumer electronics. For a product to succeed, however, it must first get noticed.

Two popular consumer electronics companies with Vancouver offices have launched promotional campaigns in recent months intended to drive up holiday sales of their electronic products. The stakes are high for Wacom and Logitech as both manufacturers compete to sell in a crowded market.

Out of an average budget of $750 on gifts, $232 will go toward consumer electronics, a 5 percent increase over last year and the highest level on record for holiday spending, according to a report released last week by the Consumer Electronics Association.

This year’s best-seller?

Much of that demand stems from hot new products on the market this year, according to the association. No. 1 on adults’ holiday wish list is notebook or laptop computers, followed by iPads, e-readers, iPods, video game systems, digital cameras and TVs.

Logitech, which has major research and development activities in Vancouver, is releasing its hot new item for the season next month. The Revue is a set-top box that brings GoogleTV to a high-definition television. For $299.99, a viewer can surf the Web on their TV without the hassle of hooking up their laptop, using the same Google search function they find in their Web browser.

To generate buzz for the Revue, Logitech tried something completely new this year. The Switzerland-based company leased three high-end lofts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and hired salespeople to live in them from June until the end of November. The “hosts” hold GoogleTV demonstrations three or four times per week, surrounded by their swanky digs. Word of the events spreads to their followers through social media channels such as Twitter.

“The product isn’t available yet, so it’s the exclusive way to get a peek,” said Pamela McCracken, a spokeswoman for Logitech in Vancouver.

The lofts also showcase other Logitech products in an effort to spur sales of its existing gadgets, including remote controls and speakers.

“We’re able to use something newer as a halo for our other products,” McCracken said.

Last year’s toy

Manufacturers don’t always need a flashy new product to see strong holiday sales. At Best Buy in Vancouver, manager Cole Peterson expects the top sellers in his store to be the products that have already been around a few years but are just now becoming popular among consumers.

“Some of these products did exist before … but now people are really seeing what it means for their lifestyle,” Peterson said. “Consumers are discovering what’s possible; they’re becoming more educated than they ever have before.”

Japan-based Wacom, which has its U.S. headquarters in Vancouver, doesn’t have a new product to sell this season. To capture some attention for its existing Bamboo line of electronic pens and tablets, Wacom released two new Facebook applications this month for online scrapbookers and amateur designers.

Doodlescape is a program that lets visitors draw on friends’ Facebook walls like a graffiti artist. Friends can add to the doodles, creating collaborative art. Facebook members don’t need a Bamboo pen to use the application, but the drawings are easier to do using the pen instead of a mouse.

Similarly, the Cardbuilder application allows Facebook members to create greeting cards for their friends with or without the electronic tools.

The company hopes these apps educate consumers on what they can do with an electronic pen, and drive some to adopt the technology.

So far, the applications are a hit, with more than 10,000 visitors using the Doodlescape program in the first few days after the launch, said John Bistolas, director of marketing at Wacom in Vancouver. Whether those downloads will translate into sales has yet to be seen, however.

Bistolas expects a 25 percent growth in sales over last year based on better-than-expected sales of the Bamboo line when it was released last year. Consumer awareness of its products has increased since then, driven by higher use of online photo editing and scrapbooking tools, Bistolas said.

“We’ll know (it worked),” he said, “if we hit our sales goals by the end of the quarter.”