Interview with Kathy Landon, Vice President of Branding and Professional Services, Sonic
Topic: Sonic News from AudiologyNOW!
CAROLYN SMAKA: Hi Kathy, always good to see you. Your AudiologyNOW! booth was buzzing and looked great. Can you give an overview of what Sonic was showing at the convention?
KATHY LANDON: I would love to. At AudiologyNOW! we were promoting who we are as Sonic. In the past we've tended to focus more on product, and while we still have great products, we wanted to really focus on the Sonic brand this time. As you noticed, we had a new branded booth that we were very excited about. A big change for us this year was that we were able to purchase a new, Sonic-branded booth - in the past, we've not had the luxury of this, and we felt it was important for our booth to really communicate our investment in the brand and our messaging. This is a commitment that we've made to who we are and how we will move forward in the future, and that's a really strong message.
SMAKA: In addition to the branding and curb appeal of your booth, you even considered the soundscape.
LANDON: Yes, that was a lot of fun. In different spots around the booth we had directional speakers that would play everyday sounds. Because at Sonic, we make "everyday sounds better".
SMAKA: Ah! The Sonic tagline.
LANDON: Right. So we decided to play up on that idea and have little random, everyday sounds in the booth. As you moved around the booth you might hear a doorbell, children laughing, a telephone ringing or conversations between people. It was a fun element to bring in to our booth this year.
SMAKA: How has the Flip launch been going?
LANDON: Flip has been a really successful product for us so far. As you know, when you launch a new product with as many great benefits as Flip, you're interested to see which features will garner the most excitement or become the highlight. There have been a couple of things that have especially stood out. The new feedback cancellation system is one of them - it's been fantastic and customers have really responded so positively to the new system. I manage the professional services team including customer care, tech support, and training. They are usually your early barometer for what's happening with a new product, and they do a great job of keeping track of everything that's said about a product, both good and bad. One of things we've noticed with Flip is we've not had a single call come in to help adjust for feedback. Nothing. No problems with feedback, which is unusual for any product. Usually, even with really good feedback cancellation systems you have an occasional call or a challenging fitting where the dispensing professional will call tech support and ask, "Hey, I'm having feedback, what do I do? How do I program this out?" The other thing that people seem to really be keying in to is how good the noise reduction is in Flip. It's the next generation of Sonic noise reduction on this new platform, so we knew it would be great, but even long time Sonic people like me have been really impressed with it. Also, the fact that Flip has a telecoil has made it really popular. If you look at competitive products, it's about tradeoffs - you can have wireless or a telecoil;you can have a remote control or a telecoil. Especially when you have such a small case and so many components crammed in together, people expect that there will be tradeoffs. Yet, we managed to include a telecoil with Flip and we're getting really positive feedback on that. The large volume control has been another hit. I was looking at the recent MarkeTrak data that came out about motivators. It looked at what's important to people who are considering purchase of a hearing aid or what would change their mind to purchase an aid. A local volume control on the device was in the top ten motivators, whereas wireless connectivity was in the 40's.
SMAKA: I would think that many consumers wouldn't even know what wireless connectivity means in hearing aids.
LANDON: Exactly. And especially if they've had a hearing aid previously they've probably had a volume control, and if they've come to depend on it, they want it in a new device. I think it's a really big win for Flip that it has a really easy to use volume control and not some strange combination switch that a lot of manufacturers use as a tradeoff to accommodate the small size of the device.
SMAKA: We have tried to move away from volume controls with automatic processing but here we are in 2012 and it hasn't worked.
LANDON: Sometimes what we think is high tech is not necessarily the best thing for the consumer, and ultimately, we must make the consumer satisfied for that device to stay with them where it can provide the benefit
We've talked at length about Sonic's 4S Foundation, and Flip really delivers on all of those things. Flip includes our new Speech Variable Processing that we introduced with Varicom last year and provides great Sound that's natural. The new speech priority noise reduction obviously is very much focused on Speech understanding in noise. The Style stands out. It is stylish, and yet designed to be simple, which is the fourth S, Simplicity in everything that we do. Flip is an easy product for the patient to understand and use. And it's an easy product to fit. From a clinician's point of view, you're not battling feedback. The software is very easy to use. This product launch includes a new version of software, EXPRESSfit 2012. Although this software is built on a new platform, we've been able to make that transition from older Sonic software to the newer software very easy because we've kept the intuitive navigation and we haven't changed the process of conducting a fitting session. The result has been good acceptance of the new software as well as the Flip product.
SMAKA: When will the power receiver be available for Flip?
LANDON: It will be available in May, and have approximately 9 - 10 dB more gain and output. The upper fitting range extends to about 95 dB in the higher frequencies and about 85 dB in the low and mid-frequencies with the power receiver. Of course, there will be an assortment of domes available, including custom molds. Because Flip uses a 13 battery rather than a 312, the battery life will be good, even with the power receiver.
SMAKA: What's happening with your new headquarters?
LANDON: Renovations are underway at our new worldwide headquarters and it's really exciting to see it coming together. We anticipate that we'll be moving in within a few months.
SMAKA: I'll look forward to paying you a visit. Thanks for the update as always, Kathy.
LANDON: Thanks, Carolyn.
For more information, about Sonic please visit http://us.sonici.com/ or the Sonic web channel on AudiologyOnline.