Mao King, An Overnight Star Vintage Style Radio? A Fashionable Bluetooth Speaker? A Future-Oriented Smart Speaker?

摘要: Is “resorting to emotion” enough to support so huge a market? How did Mao King manage to achieve continued success? What's Mao King's ambition in the future? What are the challenges?

(Chinese Version)

If it’s understandable that a vintage style Bluetooth speaker’s sales volume could rise from 100,000 to 200,000 within a year, not if it rose from 0.2 million to 1 million. Here comes the question: is “resorting to emotion” enough to support such a market?

Two years ago, TMTPost covered Mao King Radio as a crowdfunding project. For the past two years, while most other projects paled into insignificance, Mao King somehow managed to get rid of the curse, continue its success and even blend cultural and technological elements into its brand image. Besides, Mao King has been trying to learn from iPhone and develop its own “hardware and software” at the same time.

Starting as a handmade vintage style radio speaker brand, Mao King radio has managed to demonstrate to us the endless possibilities of radios in the internet era.

How did Mao King manage to achieve continued success?

At first, Mao King radio relied heavily on crowdfunding platforms to gain its popularity. However, one single product is far from enough. How can a 2,000 yuan handmade, minority-targeting vintage style radio achieve scale development? Are elements such as handmade, appealing to emotion conducive, or the other way around?

The challenge for Mao King radio for the past two years has always been: how to rise from a star brand to a longtime seller? Mao King radio’s solution is to refine its products, diversify its product line and explore more marketing channels.

From the aspect of product, Mao King Radio 3 no longer sticks to its classic design and is priced at lower than 1,000 yuan. Furthermore, Mao King even developed a sub-brand “The Little Prince” and released a 399 yuan version radio. At this point, it’s safe to conclude that targeting the younger generation and the general public has become one of the biggest factors contributing to Mao King’s continued success.

From the aspect of marketing channels, Mao King not only relies on JD and Tmall, two competing platforms, but also teams up with content e-commerce platforms such as Yitiao TV, Luogic Show, 22 o’clock Reading, etc. and developed tailor-made product portfolios for different platforms.

For Mao King radio, it’s vital that consumers get to see and touch its products before buying them. While offline channels only contributed to 20 per cent of sales in Q4 2015, they surpassed online channels and took up 55 per cent by Q1 2017.

It’s possible to increase sales volume from 10,000 to 200,000 simply by diversified product line, online market expansion and offline channels. However, it’s no easy thing to go beyond 200,000 and reach around one million. What makes up Mao King radio’s mind to set the goal of selling over 1 million radios in 2017?

The first time when radios’ shells can be easily changed

Mao King’s answer is quite simple, but effective: exploring the endless possibilities of radios.

On August 6th, Mao King officially launched its sub-brand and even made up a word for it, that is, “Radiooo” (radio plus ∞). At the press release, Mao King radio released a range of radio models featuring six themes.

This might also mark the first time in history that a radio’s shell can be easily changed. At this point, three-color “The Little Prince” series is more like testing waters, while “Radiooo”, featuring themes such as England, Adventurer, Art Museum, Design Hall, Musician and Craftsman, is Mao King’s “secret weapon”. Through these different styles of radios, Mao King attempts to integrate all popular cultural elements and rise into a culture and fashion barrier as popular as Zippo.

Among Mao King Adventurer series, Radiooo released a radio model called “Eagle” to pay tribute to the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic. In tribute to Andy Warhol, Mao King released “POP”, featuring screen-printing elements, among its Art Museum series. Besides, Mao King collaborated with popular IPs such as Capitain America and released a Captain America model.
n tribute to Andy Warhol, Mao King released “POP”, featuring screen-printing elements, among its Art Museum series.

n tribute to Andy Warhol, Mao King released “POP”, featuring screen-printing elements, among its Art Museum series.

At the same time, Mao King adopted the crowd-innovation model in Radiooo and launched a global partner recruiting project together with Rococo, a crowd-innovation platform.

However, this is far from something novel. While Starbucks has already set up a special coffee cup design platform, UNIQLO also integrated fashion elements in its clothes design each season to attract fans of fashionable IPs. However, is a handmade, unique-design radio enough to attract fans of Harley, Polaroid and Andy Warhol?

A store of audio programs in hardware

The endless possibilities lie not only in diversified design, but also in contents. Mao King radio attempts to break the limits of traditional radios and usher in the age of internet radios.

Although Mao King was once known as a radio for the minority of music enthusiasts, it never positioned itself as a radio maker for radio enthusiasts. As a matter of fact, most people bought Mao King radio as a Bluetooth speaker. As we can tell from Mao King radio’s product introduction, we can see tags such as portable, mini, Bluetooth speaker. Obviously, functions such as speaker and Bluetooth are far more attract to consumers than radio.

After all, radio contents no longer suit the tastes of the younger audience. How can you expect to hear medicine and commercial ads, traffic broadcasting from an “artsy, handmade, vintage style and high-end” radio?

However, if Mao King totally gives up radio and enters into the fierce fight in the Chinese speaker market, it would not only rid itself of the high-end brand image, but also end up becoming just another hardware company and a platform for third-party contents. This is certainly something Zeng Dejun, founder of Mao King Radio, wouldn’t want to see.

From this perspective, we might be able to understand why Radiooo opts for the content platform model. How can it avoid becoming just another content platform like Ximalaya, Dedao and Podcast? How can a hardware company develop a content platform? Mao King’s solution is Mao Key.

Similar to game cards, users can insert Mao Key into the expansion slot behind Mao King radios and play contents in the key immediately.
Mao Keys were launched along with Radiooo

Mao Keys were launched along with Radiooo

In the future, users will be able to hear prgrams such as Wu Xiaobo Channel, Luogic Show, Douban FM, Fandeng Reading Club, etc. all through Mao Keys. In a sense, it’s like a hardware version App Store, a store of audio programs in hardware. We’ve got to say that Mao King did a great job off the beaten track, bypassed the APP-centered content distribution model and created a model that’s both brand new and classic at the same time, as did its design.

Nevertheless, will the younger generation who’ve already been accustomed to listening audio contents through APPs adapt to this new model? Nobody knows for sure.

What we do know, however, is that Mao King attempts to play a bigger role upstream. For example, it has already launched support projects for radio content producers and invited broadcasters of popular internet radio programs to go on stage and share their stories. It seems that what Mao King attempts to do is learn from Apple’s Podcast and create an audio content ecosystem featuring high-end audience, content as well as hardware.

Anyhow, Mao King never wants to see itself be reduced simply to a high-end Bluetooth speaker dwelled on the past.

The innate paradox behind Mao King

In addition, there’s still room for other possibilities. According to Zeng, the expansion slot behind Radiooo is not simply compatible with audio cards, but also may become Mao King’s key to the future. Coupled with AI operating systems such as Sougou’s Speech Recognition, Baidu’s DuerOS, Orion Star, it could be easily turned into a smart speaker.

What Zeng wants to do is rid people of the wrong impression of smart speakers and demonstrate that there’s nothing fancy about them, since smart functions can be easily added to traditional radios in modules.

Since AI technology is still at the primary stage at present, Mao King adopts open interfaces in case of more advanced AI technology. Moreover, as the competition among different AI system developers has just begun, it’s still too early to take sides. Before any player stands out, it’s reasonable to provide an open platform for different players to compete.

To wrap up, Radiooo is not only a Bluetooth radio featuring various designs, but also a hardware platform compatible with audio expansion contents, even a smart, future-oriented speaker. This may be the reason why Mao King dares to set the goal of selling over 1 million radios in 2017. From a vintage style radio to a future-oriented smart speaker, Mao King attempts to bridge the gap between past and future. However, it has to strike a good balance, otherwise its conflicted brand image will do nothing but confuse its users.

Prior to Radiooo, Mao King attracts users through its vintage style and nostalgic favor; after Radiooo, however, Mao King has somehow gotten rid of the brand image such as vintage, handmade and radio. As the younger generation have already been accustomed to content consumption via smartphones, is a vintage radio style Bluetooth speaker attractive enough to let people put down their smartphones and turn it on?

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Zhang Yuan. Please note the source and hyperlink when reproduce.]       

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.  

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