A Long Island consumer electronics company is rebranding its nostalgia turntable line after acquiring the historic Victrola trademark for a six-figure sum, the company’s owner says.
Corey Lieblein, founder of Port Washington-based Innovative Technology Electronics Corp., said that about nine months ago, goaded by retailers who sell the company’s products, he launched a “brand hunt” for the music-player line that accounted for about 75 percent of 2015 sales.
“The number-one brand on my list from day one was Victrola,” he said. “My father was a huge antiques buff, and he has four or five Victrolas in his house. The physical Grammy award is a Victrola.”
The brand was used so widely that it became synonymous for record player. “People would call any record player a Victrola,” he said.
That search led Lieblein to a Florida dealer who acquires and sells old trademarks. Among those in his inventory: Victrola.
After negotiations that stretched about 12 weeks, Lieblein cut a deal in October giving Innovative Technology rights to the Victrola trademark for use in consumer electronics.
Not included was the right to depict Nipper, the dog shown peering into the horn of a gramophone in Victrola advertisements with the tagline “His master’s voice.”
Last month, Lieblein’s company began rolling out the Victrola brand on more than 50 nostalgia products, including jukeboxes, suitcase turntables and antique-style wooden radios and console music centers.
Lieblein said executives at his retail outlets have had an “incredible” positive reaction to the Victrola brand and are expanding the space they afford Innovative’s nostalgia music line.
Over the years, Lieblein said, those retail executives had praised the design and features of his nostalgia products but called their Innovative Technology brand name a “contradiction.”
The target demographic for the nostalgia products ranges from “the 22-year-old hipster to the 65-year-old boomer,” he said.
But Joel R. Evans, professor of marketing and international business at Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business, questioned whether the Victrola name, dormant for years, would excite consumers, especially young ones.
He said that though it may resonate with buyers in their 50s and 60s, “it hasn’t been an active name for quite a period of time.”
The name Victrola was introduced in 1906 as a brand of windup phonograph with an amplifying horn by the Victor Talking Machine Co. Phonographs with the Victrola name later were sold by successor company RCA Victor.
Innovative’s nostalgia music systems, most priced at retail from $49.99 to $229.99, are going up against those of Louisville, Kentucky-based rival Crosley Radio, whose name has its own historical provenance from the early days of phonographs.
Evans advised Innovative to promote the Victrola name on social media that attract older people, like Facebook and Pinterest.
Lieblein, however, predicts strong sales growth this year across demographic groups based in part on the Victrola branded products.
Innovative Technology, incorporated in 2004, posted sales of about $65 million in 2015, and the company is forecasting growth of about 50 percent based on expected demand for the music players and a new Bright Tunes product.
Bright Tunes merges simple plug-in lights widely used during the holiday season with small Bluetooth speakers connected to the wires. Each 26-foot strand of lights includes four speakers, each about the size of a golf ball, and carries a suggested retail price of $39.99.
Lieblein said he has filed for patents on the product, which will have a soft launch this summer and a full launch in October.
Innovative uses contract manufacturers in the Far East to make its products. The company also makes an array of Bluetooth speakers, headphones and power sticks and power banks for recharging phones and laptops.
The company’s products are sold at major retail channels, including Amazon.com, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kohl’s, Bon-Ton Stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, and QVC.
AT A GLANCE
Company: Innovative Technology Electronics Corp., Port Washington
Founder: Corey Lieblein
Employees: 22 in the United States, mostly in Port Washington; 15 in Hong Kong
2015 sales: About $65 million