Cam­era and drone-maker AEE is all about build­ing brand

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By HEZI JIANG in New York hez­i­jiang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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.”

HEZI JIANG / CHINA DAILY

AEE Tech­nol­ogy show­cases its new un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cle at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Ve­gas in Jan­uary.

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