By Meelad Sadat
Turtle Beach has replaced longtime CEO and co-founder Carmine Bonanno with Juergen Stark, who takes the helm at the high-end audio peripherals maker effective today. Bonanno, who has been running the company since its founding in 1975, will remain on the board of directors.
Stark last served as COO of Motorola Mobility’s Mobile Devices business, where he played a role in the division’s $12.5 billion sale to Google in May 2011. Shortly after the deal, he was among a handful of senior executives who left Motorola, including CEO Sanjay Jha.
Stark left a company in turnaround, one that’s now seeing fits and starts with recent changes and layoffs announced by Google. With Turtle Beach, he’s joining one on the rise. Based on NPD data, Turtle Beach was the top seller of game accessories in 2011, dominating the headset category. Its products accounted for 12 of the top 25 best-selling gaming headsets last year. Turtle Beach has also struck a number of high profile deals in the game industry. It recently announced a second deal with Activision and developer Treyarch for branded headsets based on the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Earlier this summer, the company took over as official audio gear provider of Major League Gaming, replacing rival Astro Gaming.
The [a]list daily had a chance to interview Stark about his move and what he sees as Turtle Beach’s prospects with products and marketing efforts aimed at gamers.
How do you see your experience at Motorola translating to Turtle Beach?
Smartphones are probably some of the most challenging, competitive, and complex technology products delivered to consumers today. Every element . . . from design and development to marketing to supply chain will apply to Turtle Beach. At the end of the day, successful consumer products are about great design, friendly user experience, and exceeding customer expectations.
Mobile games are starting to look and play more like their console or handheld counterparts. Is that an area where you see growth opportunity for Turtle Beach products?
Superior audio performance shouldn’t be sacrificed on mobile gaming devices, and Turtle Beach offers a mobile series engineered for gamers on-the-go. As this segment of the industry progresses, we’ll be on hand to deliver audio solutions best suited to the devices setting the pace for mobile gaming.
As you take the helm, what is it about your new company that excites you most?
In 2011, NPD recorded Turtle Beach as the number one headsets/headphones company and the number one overall for third party console video gaming accessories based on dollar volume. But here is what is interesting: only 1 percent of gamers use headsets today. Those who have tried Turtle Beach headsets all share that they had a superior experience with a headset and can never go back gaming without one. That opportunity alone is tremendously exciting.
Right now it looks like your Call of Duty headsets are unique products, as far as game licensed headsets go. Is that an exclusive deal with Activision or are you pursuing other licenses?
We were thrilled to be invited back by Activision and Treyarch for a second year with Call of Duty to produce an exclusive, premium line of headsets in anticipation of Black Ops II. We’re always interested in conversing with creative organizations and discovering how we can support their titles and fans in reaching a new level of immersion.
Your marketing visibility in the game industry is growing tremendously. You’re now the official Major League Gaming (MLG) audio supplier. It seems you exhibit at every major game trade show. Do you see gaming as the most important category for Turtle Beach?
Turtle Beach has been in the audio industry for 37 years and currently maintains a single focus on gaming audio. Creating an integrated gaming headset is extremely complicated because it’s more than just a microphone to headphones — its digital processing various channels originating from the game and the gamer. For many industry players gaming audio is a side project, whereas at Turtle Beach gaming audio is our sole focus.
Where do you see social media’s importance in marketing and branding strategy, are we at the tip of the iceberg or has it pretty much carved its niche?
We’re extremely fortunate to have a robust and growing community both on social networks and in our pre-set community which has received over 330,000 visits to date. Social media’s integration into an overall marketing approach is essential, as is the data collection and analysis that can guide us as we move to new products, evolved customer experience and future campaigns. In that respect, many organizations are only hitting just below the surface, but the wealth of knowledge already available is astounding and extremely insightful.