Contributed by Anand Chhatpar
I had the chance to interview Dominick Martinetti, CEO of Slappa Distribution, a small but rapidly growing company that is making a great name for itself among DJs and music junkies as an innovative product company. Dominick is an inspiring young man, and I have shared in this article, excerpts from our conversation that reveal his thinking and journey into market leadership.
Slappa has been in business for four years now, and it started with an initial product range consisting of CD cases. It was not a particularly “sexy” business to get into. CD cases had been around for 15 years, and the CD business was not growing aggressively any more. DVDs, computer software and video games still used CD cases, but the margins had been declining for most companies in this space. Also, brands before Slappa had commoditized the product — there was no real choice available to the consumers. Most of the people using these disc cases were forced to not have choices… outside of cosmetic colors, no one was building quality and variety into the cases. Therein lay a problem with CD cases from the consumer’s perspective, which Dominick was able to spot.
To conduct his market research and with an Open Innovation mindset, Dominick went to online bulletin boards and chat rooms for audio professionals like Audiophile, Audio Asylum and Audioreview.com. He sought advice on what these target consumers needed from the ultimate CD case.
He heard back two major things from them:
1. More Protection: A majority of CD cases available in the market were not providing any real level of protection for a person’s disc collection. People wanted to protect discs even while moving formats towards MP3. They wanted to protect their investment. An individual’s music collection alone can amount to anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 over 15 years depending on whether one is a general consumer or a DJ.
2. People wanted to keep their discs and covers together: People did not like jewel cases because they cracked and then one could not keep their CD artwork (cover) together with the disc.
Dominick created a series of prototypes and sent them to influential journalists who write product reviews for well read magazines and blogs and asked for their feedback and advice on the design. He kept iterating and improving the design based on feedback from these reviewers. After 2 years of prototype iteration, Dominick finally heard “Its perfect!” from several reviewers and he knew he had a winning product in his hand. Dominick had designed the D2 patented pocket system which has a rear pocket for the disc and a front pocket for the cover along with a 5-7 mm opening. The shell for the D2 was made out of X-EVA, a fire resistant, water resistant material.
Launching the product now became much easier for Dominick. He put up a website at slappa.com and told all his friends and the product reviewers he was in contact with that his product was now available for purchase. The reviewers wrote rave reviews of his $49.95 CD-case next to reviews of top of the line $2,000 music systems. Slappa’s products achieved very quick acceptance among the “Pro Audio” market, and Dominick has expanded into distribution via retail, mail order, catalogs and other media where people can pay attention to details of the product.
Dominick’s inspiration is the Fossil Watch Company that made people think they were getting a better deal with a $79 designer watch from Fossil in a tin can than with a $20 watch from Walmart. He already has plans to expand his product line into backpacks, high end bags, and other products, while also expanding distribution globally.
When asked about why Slappa’s customers become huge fans of the company, Dominick says, “We’ve made ourselves a customer focused company. Each customer is our most important customer. You CAN please everyone, in a million ways. You just have to find a different way for every person.”