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Dr. Dre Is Taking SKUL to School

The last is the most difficult aspect of marketing to predict or control. Only a few people, like Steve Jobs and Dr. Dre, seem able to get it right consistently, to match innovation and marketing with the public's mercurial fascination.

That often means giving customers something they want before they know they want it. Where Beats seems capable of that, Skullcandy and its other competitors do not.

Further, where Beats has one of the most influential artists in the world backing every strand of wire that comes out of its doors, Skullcandy and other competitors have only a handful of lesser-known recording artists sponsoring one product or another -- a scattershot attempt by comparison.

The rapper Wale (pronounced wah-LAY) is one of the big artists featured on Skullcandy's Web site, wearing a stylish set of headphones. This is the bio the site offers:
Wale rose to prominence in 2006 with his song "Dig Dug (Shake It)" became (sic) popular in his hometown. He became locally recognized and continued recording music for the regional audience. Producer Mark Ronson discovered Wale in 2006 and signed him to Allido Records in 2007. While signed to that label, Wale released several mixtapes and appeared in national media including MTV and various urban magazines.

His hometown, by the way, is Washington, D.C. -- significant if you're following rap styles. More important, he's playing arenas all over the world and his second album, Ambition from 2011, entered the Billboard hip-hop charts at No. 1, the Billboard Top 200 at No. 2. But those glaring omissions are the least of the problems here. Wale's career is doing just fine. It's Skullcandy we're worried about.

The company needs to create a whole package for users. Half-hearted single-product recommendations like this, by themselves, aren't enough. Even coupled with the push into sports, video games and overseas markets, it's not enough.

As much as it pains me to say it, if Skullcandy truly can't tell a better story, create a total user experience to compete with Beats, then its long term looks as grim as 2013 and the investor selling spree seems entirely justified.

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park.
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