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Sharp Electronics' guiding rule to "be first" in consumer electronics has served the marketer well. It's worked for calculators, camcorders, front-projection TVs and it's working again for flat-panel, liquid crystal display TVs.

The inventor of modern LCD technology, Sharp began its journey in the late 1990s when it found customers wanted TV capabilities in their LCD monitors. Its next move? Into the kitchen. Sharp realized no one was making space-saving TVs that tucked under cabinets.

In the late `90s, Bob Scaglione, senior VP-marketing at Sharp's consumer electronics group, and his U.S. counterparts convinced their Japanese parent company that it was a good idea; consumers "snapped them up," Mr. Scaglione says.

Step two was into the living room, with Sharp hiring renowned designer Toshiyuki Kita to create the perfect box for its technology. In 2001, the Aquos line of liquid crystal TVs was launched, and as the first to market, sales took off, says Mr. Scaglione, 42.

However, first doesn't last long in the consumer electronics world and soon there were competitors, lots of them. In fact, about 70 players now make LCD TVs.

Sharp has the largest LCD TV market share both worldwide and in the U.S., according to researcher IDC. Sharp has a 26.1% U.S. share in the first quarter of 2004 (484,100 units). Sharp turned to marketing and advertising, launching its biggest campaign ever in September promoting Aquos liquid crystal TVs. Several offices of independent agency Wieden & Kennedy created the advertising.

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