Wakeman takes Pioneer technology to the people

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Michael l. wakeman's consumer marketing career has taken him down a circuitous path -- from greeting cards to sports trading cards, from Hot Wheels to Erector sets. There was even a stint at Quaker Oats Co., helping direct brand and product marketing for Gatorade .

Recently appointed exec VP-marketing for Pioneer Electronics USA, Mr. Wakeman, 39, now plans to leverage that richly diverse background to take brand marketing in the company's auto and home electronics divisions to the next level.

"As we look at making the Pioneer brand a truly global brand in the consumer electronics category, all of our marketing activities need to be integrated," Mr. Wakeman said. "Car and home electronics will have a cohesive message and, when the average consumer sees Pioneer, they'll see integration."

Mr. Wakeman's responsibilities in the new position are to direct all marketing, advertising and public relations for the car and home divisions.

Overall, the company is looking to shape messages around its distinctive technologies, such as sophisticated car navigation devices, a new digital network entertainment platform, plasma TV displays and DVD/CD megachangers.

Those are products Pioneer hopes will give it a marketplace advantage, despite a measured media budget of less than $5 million, spent via agency BBDO West, Los Angeles.

FINE-TUNING THE BRAND

"We're looking right now at fine-tuning the brand's positioning and an integrated consumer communications program extending to advertising, promotions, PR, sponsorships and even sales programs," Mr. Wakeman said.

While technology might seem the odd ball in a career comprised of classic package-goods marketing, it's not such a stretch for a genuine audio/videophile.

"I'm getting paid to watch movies and listen to music," he said, adding, "as you look across my career, I have a strong background in building brands with a young male audience in very competitive environments."

As the European marketing director for Mattel's boys division, Mr. Wakeman built a brand from scratch, guiding the company into activity toys, a new segment. There were Nickelodeon-branded Erector sets and Play-Doh, and a relaunch of the Hot Wheels brand in Europe.

At Upper Deck Co., a sports trading card and collectibles business, he discovered a secret weapon: "Rookie cards drive trading card product sales," he said.

During his tenure as VP and general manager of the licensed products business unit at Gibson Greetings, Mr. Wakeman's challenge was to reposition the nation's oldest greeting card company against giants Hallmark Cards and American Greetings Corp.

He managed licensing programs, borrowing on the equities of well-known sports and film brands and succeeded in nailing down the "Dilbert" license.

Meanwhile, he's pumped for the challenge at Pioneer.

"When I was a kid growing up, you had to have Pioneer, then Sony came along. . . . There's a great opportunity to take new technology that in the past we haven't always shared with the American consumer."

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