Unicam Digital Group has been a mainstay of the AV market for 42 years, although all good things must adapt or risk dying out. Adapting is exactly what the AV distributor is doing, and it’s doing so in a drastic way – by exiting the residential market and ditching its distribution arm.
On August 1, Unicam officially rebranded, switching to its new name – User Experience Global, or UXG. This rebranding isn’t all about a new name and a new look, however. This is a major reimagining of everything that Unicam stands for. In fact, old Unicam customers may barely even recognise the new company – as around 80-90% of everything UXG offers is brand new.
CE Pro Europe caught up with Drew Dooler, UXG’s managing director, to find out everything about the new company – including a new look HQ, a new approach to the marketplace, and some exciting new technologies.
“The rebrand really comes back from Unicam’s roots really. It’s 42 years old. They’re great roots, great clients, great staff, and we’ve brought it on, and want to bring it up to the 21st Century. Give it a new lease of life.
“What we’ve done with the business is we’ve transformed it into a technology and digital company, something far from what it was. Previously it was more an AV distribution company, but we saw the potential and rebranded it in-line with what we wanted to do.
“It was a positive step forward and drew a line in the sand with Unicam. The way we’ll proceed in the market gives us more of a professional outlook and the services we’re now offering didn’t really fit with the old Unicam name.”
Residential Distributor No More
As part of the rebranding Drew made the decision to exit the residential market. Given the company’s close relationship with CEDIA, with the company’s headquarters being utilised as the Northern training hub for the association, that was a difficult decision to make. It also meant leaving behind brands including HDAnywhere and Ad Notam.
Despite the difficult decision, Drew is steering UXG straight into the 21st Century by utilising experiential technologies. The savvy businessman is also ensuring that the bottom line is looked after – trimming the fat, and ensuring that only the profitable divisions of the company remain. That’s why 80-90% of the company is new, as the only remaining part of Unicam sticking around is the retail solutions.
“UXG is really focused on experimental marketing technologies, software, AR/VR, so everything that we currently offer now is 80% new. From Unicam of old what we’ve kept is the retail solutions, which is really the physical design and build of retail spaces – counters, tables, physical hardware from steel and wood. Which is a very successful part of the business.
“Everything else is new. We’ve now got rid of the old distribution arm, distributing stuff like HDAnywhere and Ad Notom. So that’s now gone. My key role in this is to bring the company into an exciting era, so all the tech that we’re offering now is new. It’s an exciting time. We’ve done a real switch.”
New Name, New Home
Despite ditching its distribution arm, the retail solutions division has been growing from strength to strength; largely thanks to its largest client, DSG Carphone. That will just be a small part of UXG going forward, however. Those visiting the company’s new headquarters, which is currently under wraps – will see what the real money-maker is going to be.
“The old HQ was really to get us up and running, and get Unicam on the map as we got the new technology out there. The new HQ is now a serious place for clients – it’s a playground for adults. It’s where you get to see the technology and play with it. What we’ve done is we’ve put our money where our mouth is – we’ve created an experience.”
While the new look HQ will look to impress clients from major agencies and firms, the real benefit coming from UXG is Drew’s time.
“I’m well known within the agencies, they come to me with creative briefs, they come to me with problems, what’s next in human behaviour? Where’s tech going? How can we use tech? The corporates come and get my time. So, I work with people like Adidas, and Accenture and they come and we’ll brainstorm, so every experience they get is different.”
That will be the key to UXG’s success. It’ll be a company very much built on tailor-making experiences to the client. “Every tour they take of the facility will be different – we start with a conversation, and then what I’ll do is tailor that experience to that first minute of conversation that we’ve had.”
Clients will find no end of different technologies available to view in UXG’s facility. “We’ve got exciting tech in there, including VR – which gets people laughing and joking. We might do a little bit of touchscreens with space invaders, and that really opens people’s minds and gets people into the mindset as to why they’re there.”
Drew notes that the majority of people are afraid of technology. Big corporate clients know what kind of thing they want, but given the huge amount of technology available on the open market these days, they don’t know how to exactly achieve what they want. That’s where Drew comes in.
“We get people into the serious discussions – what do we need to achieve for your brief, where do you want to go in tech, have a look at a digital roadmap, and then we can start tailoring the journey and having some really meaningful conversations – but the main thing is we’ve got people excited, rather than scared of technology.”
The Personal Touch
Drew stresses that the personal relationships with clients will be the number one priority at UXG. While clients will get face-to-face time with Drew himself, that won’t be the only benefit. Companies approaching UXG with big ideas will likely find a distinct absence of the word ‘no’.
“You have people like me that understands most of the technology out there, as well as the software. We’re firm believers that we can create any experience by combining the software and hardware together. There’s nothing we can’t do.”
It’s that ‘nothing we can’t do’ ethos that will be key to UXG’s on-going success. While the residential market is still very much focused on shifting boxes and hardware, the commercial sector is ripe for innovation. That’s exactly what Drew is hoping to achieve, and something he believes no other company is capable of.
“It’s the flexibility and the way we work. Traditional AV companies are still very much in their comfort zone. And what we do is take people out of their comfort zone and blend technologies together.
“The consensus around the office I’ve created is that one piece of technology doesn’t tend to fulfil any sort of brief or client need. So, we’re into blending technologies together, which don’t exactly work together out of the box, but we create experiences, and we sit and take the briefs and listen to clients.
“Through this approach we’ve come up with really unique and bespoke approaches. That’s what makes us different – we never offer the same solution to a client twice, if we can help it.”
Power of Immersion
UXG has already achieved success with its bespoke experiences. It worked with Microsoft’s agency on a unique offering for the Xbox One launch, dubbed the ‘Xbox One Gaming Pod’. This completely immersive, creative solution utilised high pixel pitch LED screens on three walls and the floor to give gamers the sensation that they stepped into the game. The exterior of the pod was designed to look like a giant Xbox One, which players could enter by booking an appointment online.
The Xbox One Gaming Pod toured the UK, popping up in Game stores up and down the country. Despite the size, UXG managed to install, dismantle and reinstall the pods without any fuss. It also fulfilled Microsoft’s brief – which was to offer an immersive, shareable experience for gamers to enjoy.
Drew notes that Microsoft was so impressed with the offering, that it now takes pride of place at UXG’s new-look HQ. This means anyone visiting the venue will get the opportunity to see one of UXG’s greatest achievements.
It’s All About Human Behaviour
While UXG is all about unique, tailor-made experiences, Drew already knows one breakthrough experience that the company’s retail customers will appreciate.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve got is how we’re thinking towards retail. We talk about the ultra-connected customer a lot, because in retail they’re all on this transition period before they invest in tech and understand it.
“Five years ago digital signage was just thrown into the installation because retailers were told they needed it, but human behaviour means consumers have switched off to it. That means consumers aren’t looking at or acknowledging digital signage anymore.”
For retailers that have invested heavily into rolling out digital signage, that represents a major problem. If people are ignoring those screens – then what was the point of installing them in the first place? Thankfully, Drew has a solution.
“Our biggest offer is to enable retailers to use existing tech they’ve got in-store, and couple it with things like iBeacons and VR/AR. Make the experiences relevant to the customers seeing them. A lot of mistakes have been made in the past, but we can rectify them.
“We would never sell or talk about a basic digital signage system, because we talk about human behaviour first. So, unless that content or digital signage is relevant to the consumer, it’s a waste of money and waste of blood, sweat and tears.
“Our concentration time is between 3-5 seconds, so unless something is relevant on that screen, people aren’t going to look at it again. Gender recognition, or simple activation trigger that recognises you and flashes something at you is far more effective. We don’t want to take people’s money for money’s sake.”
No Time To Waste
Despite all the big changes, it has taken Unicam just four to six weeks to become UXG. That short time frame reflects Drew’s approach towards the new business – to react quickly to new technologies and the changing marketplace. “We want to be ahead of everyone else, so we had to move quickly – which is why it took 4-6 weeks,” he concludes.