Camera and drone-maker AEE is all about building brand
Shenzhen AEE Technology, a contract manufacturer of action cameras since 1999, is going beyond production and focusing on innovative design, signature products and brand identity.
“Search for action cameras on Amazon, you will find over a thousand products that look almost the same. If you want to stand out, you have to become a brand. You have to spend money on marketing and branding,” said Zeng Desen, senior vicepresident of AEE who oversees foreign markets.
“Our job used to be effortless. We stay in the factory and just make the products,” he said. But the company realized that staying in the factory as a contract manufacturer for others was risky because it has no control over distribution. “Any change in the supply chain could affect our deadline. If a distributor changes their mind, everything could be gone,” Zeng said.
In 2010, the manufacturer started its own brand, AEE, selling action cameras and drones to the global consumer market, and body-worn cameras and high-end unmanned aircraft for police departments and agriculture and mining industries.
The company’s products are available in Asia, Europe and 55 other countries. About 70 percent of AEE’s total revenue comes from foreign sales, with about 30 percent from the US.
AEE opened its first international office in Los Angeles in 2014 to help the company penetrate the US market.
“Every company in our category is making the US their main battlefield. If we win here, the rest will be easier,” he said. AEE has partnered with major retailers — including WalMart, Frys and COSTCO — to sell action cameras and drones, and is hoping to break into Best Buy stores this year.
The company employes 1,200 at its Shenzhen headquarters, 300 in R&D.
“Chinese manufacturers are embracing the opportunities,” said Zeng. “We have good products, great quality, and if we can combine that with Western design and marketing strategy, we could do better than the Western brands.”
AEE Technology showcases its new unmanned aerial vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.