The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was filled to the brim with tech companies and upstarts all elbowing for attention. Belkin is one of the many, yet the company, known mostly for its networking products and chargers, continues to stand out from the crowd.
Even though Belkin can be seen as an accessories company by some, it’s their driving push to innovate that keeps them in the news and winning awards. To take it to the next level, the company partnered with the Possible agency to help promote the company and give it more shine. But Belkin was shining on its own at CES.
A few years ago, the company was recognized with an award at CES for its WeMo smart appliance product series. They developed and displayed an impressive show home to allow delegates the opportunity to see and test them in action.
This year, the company won accolades for its Velop wireless system under the Linksys brand. It’s the “first Tri-Band modular wi-fi system that can be installed in various mesh configurations providing fast and reliable wi-fi to the edge of a home network,” according to a release on the Linksys site.
One key component to the product is in its design, this WiFi system looks good.
“The design allows you to bring it out from hiding in the closet, [instead of routers with] the ugly antennas, and the ugly black box. You want to celebrate it and put on your bookshelf,” said Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin International.
But Hannon is quick to say that function is the most important aspect of any Belkin company product, and the reason Velop won a coveted award at CES, was because the product is innovative and also because it’s well-made, easy to use and works like a charm.
“Easy use has been first and foremost our number one mantra. How do we bring this, make it something that people don't have to worry about, easy set up never have to worry about? We future-proofed it,” said Hannon.
Function is at the heart of all Belkin and Linksys products, and that’s how they built trust, and sometimes the products weren’t all that pretty, yet people loved them for their reliability.
Feel the love
Belkin products definitely have respect in the tech world. But how do you take a respected brand and make it a loved brand? Possible has been tasked with doing that for Belkin the last year and a half, and it's a partnership that works due to a mutual respect and a drive to succeed.
“There's a lot that we loved about working with Belkin,” said Andrew Solmssen, managing director at Possible LA. “First of all, they are willing to take risks that not all brands are willing to take. They push us, we like to think that we push them and that's the right kind of relationship to have. A lot of brands just want everything to be safe all the time. They are willing to try things, fail fast, fail forward and that makes a huge difference for us.”
Belkin has shifted its way of doing business to where they have gone from a decentralized regional approach to a place where each brand – Belkin, Linksys and WeMo – has the resources it needs to do what they need to do.
“Belkin as a brand was catering to everybody and we really felt there was an opportunity to have a much more curated experience with Belkin in areas that are improving and enhancing people’s experience in the mobile area,” said Hannon. “We've got great internal resources but we also need a lot of fresh thinking, objective thinking to up our game as well so it's the best of both worlds and Possible really allowed us to do that.”
Trust, sometimes fleeting in the agency/brand relationship, has turned out to be a key catalyst.
“There's complete transparency, we don't have to hide things,” noted Hannon. “Everything's out in the open. I come out of the agency world and you're only as good as how much access you give people, and they have full access. We've got the confidence, we've got the team, we've got the talent and the maturity.”
Solmssen said that Hannon’s knowledge about the industry and business understanding means he holds Possible to a high standard, which is good for the brand.
Part of what Possible is charged with is making sure consumers know that Belkin is a company that puts out quality equipment that they can depend on, elevating it from other flimsy products on the market. They also have collected consumer feedback, which helps steer the company in the right direction for the customer.
“We've always had people inspire products that are core, and we've celebrated the products as part of that experience but we hadn't necessarily celebrated what else inspired our customers and that was a great insight that they brought us on the Belkin side. We celebrate what inspires you as a user and then how we can help you with those inspirations,” said Hannon.
The product is king
Belkin is a 34-year-old company founded in a garage. Linksys was founded 27 years ago and built a reputation for reliability of its routers. Hannon believes that Velop is the next iteration of the Linksys brand, one where design is coupled with function and highly-developed software. Ease of use is also important, and Velop is a model for that moving forward.
“You don't need WiFi to get going, so you never have to worry about it. We've got other things that are coming down the pipe. Initially with Amazon Alexa, some of the early stuff that we're doing is really groundbreaking,” said Hannon, hinting more innovations linked with other loved products like Alexa a year from now are in the works.
In Hannon’s mind, trust in Possible and his vision will help build a more recognizable brand for Belkin.
“A lot of the competitors in the space are just leading with product. Kieran understands that when you're faced with a choice at the shelf, you're going to pick a brand that understands you and really understands your life and your needs. I think something that we're doing together differently than any of the other competitors is really focusing on the consumer. For Belkin, it's people-inspired products – understanding what the day in the life looks like and then reflecting that back in the marketing,” said Corrine Soltis, account director, Possible LA.
Awards aren’t everything, but they’re nice to receive
Velop is gaining plenty of awards. It was an honoree at CES; it won two big awards from PC Magazine – editor’s choice and best in show; it was recognized for best in show by Network World; and it won Last Gadget Standing. All of this in a very competitive marketplace. The accolades are nice, said Hannon, because it validates the hard work put in by the well-oiled machine that is Belkin.
“From the business standpoint, it's just a continued validation. PC Magazine named the top ten routers of 2017 and three of ours were named top ten. We had the most of any brand. It's just a huge validation for Linksys and what we're doing to make WiFi the experience that you should get, rather than the experience that you're trying to get. That's what we're really focused on,” said Hannon.
Awards and accolades aren’t the reason the company makes its products, but they do help inspire the team.
“Last year, CNET had us listed as one of the top ten booths to see at CES. This year again they listed us as one of the top booths to see at CES. We always continue to push ourselves to do better and better.”
For Hannon and Belkin, it’s really about making sure the customer gets the best experience possible.
“We know the role we play in people’s lives. We don't want to claim more ownership than we should. We just want you to be happy with what you are doing. For us the best thing that we hear is when people, when they get a new device, what they says is ‘I love to see how it can be better with Belkin.’ That for us is a celebration.”