October 01, 2008

Redefining High Definition

Laminate countertops have long been recognized for their scratch-resistance, long wear time, and easiness to clean and maintain. The product is an economical choice for homeowners, but the accessibility and appeal of granite and quartz for use in kitchens and bathrooms recently has given laminate manufacturers cause for redesign and rebranding.

Wilsonart’s new “high definition” countertops are, in fact, laminate. They incorporate new textures and finishes that rival the look of granite, without the price tag. And they offer builders an option for new home buyers to upgrade their kitchen without adding a hefty line item to their sales sheet. Wilson could have called this new line “Laminate Plus” or “Laminex” or “Insert nifty new name here.” Instead, the 50+ year old company borrowed some equity from the well-known and continually growing audio/video industry and simply dubbed their product line “Wilsonart High Definition.”

According to Webster, “high definition” is defined as being or relating to an often digital television system that has twice as many scan lines per frame as a conventional system, a proportionally sharper image, and a wide-screen format.

Wikipedia further generalized the definition as “(referring) to an increase in display or visual resolution such as in televisions, cameras, etc.

A phrase that has typically been reserved for televisions, stereos, and cameras has successfully infiltrated other consumer products and positioning statements. FolkArt, a leader in craft supplies, created a “High Definition Visual Texture Paint” in almost any color you could wish. The majority of the high-end cosmetics manufacturers now boast “high definition” mascara that provides the ultimate in lash length and definition. One online retailer even challenges consumers to “Live your life in high definition with this LRG t-shirt.”

Does it work? Can the traditional electronics-defined phrase apply cross-category? The term has become so mainstream that I believe it adds clarity for manufacturers; consumers have a general idea of what the messaging means without highly descriptive phrases. Yet, with so many companies capitalizing on its positive equity, does this message run the risk of dilution if the individual products don’t live up to the traditional high-def standard?

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