The industry, in person
Looking at the outside of DSC's Toronto headquarters, marketing and communications manager Bruce Nagy can't help but note that the Tyco Fire & Safety and DSC logos are both outdated. It's a marketer's nightmare. Relatively new to the security industry, Nagy is unabashedly a former ad agency guy, someone whose training and job it is to crystallize complex messages and situations into simple phrases and ideas.
Clad in a corduroy jacket, he issues forth his Canadian-accented phrases from a mustachioed mouth: "Wireless is here to stay"; "Video verification will continue to grow in importance"; "IP is a huge trend"; "We found that [training] really strengthened our relationships with distributors."
Though details were readily available--wireless GSM units, the OzVision verification product, the T-Link IP connector, a $1 million investment in training materials and programs--it's the big picture that stays with me as I ride a plane down to Fort Lauderdale to see Eduardo Nieves, vice president of marketing and investor relations at Mace Security. What do these trends really mean for the integrator and installer, the industry's frontline that interacts with the public at large on a daily basis? Do these things really mean better mousetraps, or just more complicated ones?
As something of a mouse itself, poking around in a manufacturing world dominated by elephants, Mace is definitely hungry for a bigger piece of the cheese. A still young and flexible company, Mace is outfitted with a powerfully recognizable name, thanks to a personal-protection product, manufactured in Bennington, Vt., of all places, that has become a verb, and, like Kleenex or Band-Aid, a brand that almost gets lost in its own ubiquity.
Nieves, who's been with Mace since he joined on as a college intern in 1997, is a great reflection of the company: young, fervent, and already looking incredibly comfortable with his Floridian surroundings despite the fact that he's just moved here along with Mace's central command from a former base of operations in New Jersey. "We're focusing on it all," he said, his shaved head and loose short-sleeved button-down shirt giving him the look of a slimmed-down Vin Diesel. Mace, he said, through its legacy of personal protection products, its direct-sales catalog business in Dallas, formerly called SecurityandMore, and its Mace Pro division of systems products, acquired through Micro-Tech and Securetech, is reaching out to every part of the security food chain: distributor, installer and end user.
They're doing that by playing off their name. "People want to wrap their trucks with Mace," marveled Nieves. It's a name that the public know, almost instinctively, means protection. So now there are Mace cameras and DVRs and monitors and multiplexers and biometric access control products, some of them do-it-yourself, some of them complex enough that Mace intends to launch an aggressive training program of its own in 2006, bringing in dealers to Fort Lauderdale, where CEO Lou Paulino will reside, if not necessarily the corporate headquarters, and distributing training DVDs.
Something seems to be working. As an example, the public company recently announced the Security Segment (don't forget, Mace owns car washes, but is looking to sell) had increased sales from $2 million in the 2nd quarter of 2004 to $7.2 million in the second quarter of 2005--before the Securetech purchase.
Of course, if you're talking name recognition in the security business, what's more recognizable than GE? They bring good things to life, right? Talking with Louis Parker, GE Security's president and chief executive officer whom I end up reaching on the phone in Florida at 6 a.m. West Coast time between visits to HID and Pelco, he noted that GE is looking to play off its name recognition with end users, and is "investing a lot in marketing," following up on a change of direction put in place in February of 2005 to move "away from a product focus and toward a solution focus."
"One big success" resulting from that, said Parker, "is that a lot of end users, and I'm talking Fortune 500 companies, understand that we're in the security business."
The end user is becoming all the more important for manufacturers, he said, as the business moves toward the convergence of security and IT, with the increasing popularity of IP-enabled products.
That also, he said, necessitates "very much an open architecture approach." He said that the most common comment request from the end user is that GE "make all this stuff work together." Thus, he said, GE is investing a lot of people and time in software development so as to bridge its products and those of other competing companies.
That's a topic that gets HID's executive vice president Mark Scapparo up at night. Talking with him in HID's Irvine, Calif., headquarters, surrounded by their product-display room, he's the straightest shooter you'll ever meet. He can be. Since HID sells all over the pipeline--OEMs, integrators, end users--it has to have a lot of partners who know what the company's got in development. No reason to hide anything here.
He brings up GE's development of "enabling" software before Parker does as part of a discussion about that kind of software and devices being the hot button for the foreseeable future.
"To get from A to B," he said, "that's what people are struggling with." He, and others, cited especially the lack of standards in the security industry. He made an analogy to the IT industry, nothing that the USB standard had allowed the iPod to manifest the mainstream. What, he wondered, will be security's USB? "This industry is so old-fashioned," he opined. "The people who come up with the best open architecture answers might be the ones who become the industry leaders and winners."
Behind his massive desk, monitor screens flickering in the background, Pelco chief executive officer David McDonald is in agreement. "We've done a lot of that," he said, noting the CCTV giant's number of arrangements with access control manufacturers. "We're not technically trying to force people to use our products. We want integrators to use our products because they're right for the job."
He said everything was about ease of use, and if you want to talk training, you simply have to check out Pelco's Video University (name check), where rows of desks with built-in monitors fill more than one room in the newest building to be opened on Pelco's spacious Clovis, Calif., campus. Maybe Pelco could train people online, but why wouldn't McDonald want customers to come and be wowed by his facilities, which included everything from on-site manufacturing to an incredibly thorough and vivid memorial to the events of Sept. 11, 2001?
Forget about marketing to the end user, McDonald is rather looking to make his company an indelible piece of the national character, from being an enormous supporter of the country's police and fire departments to organizing the single-largest collection of Toys for Tots in history.
And, of course, he's focusing on "fanatical customer service" (see related story, this page).
It's a theme I'd heard many times of the course of the week, from every manufacturer to which I spoke. Success is about serving the customer, be it by introducing the newest of technologies or showing them how to use them.