Sunday, 15 November 2009 06:51

Advertising Marketing ...'Marketising"

Written by  Sterling Ball
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In the old days....(about a decade ago...ok maybe two) a manufacturer did print ads, point of purchase material, artist endorsements and if you were progressive like my father you came out with a t shirt....(1971...the first promotional clothing in our industry) to market their product. There was no line or distinction between marketing and advertising. It was all the same. The last ingredient of your 'marketising' was that you left it to your dealer to tell your story.

They got a 100% commission to tell your story. Back then the dealer hadn't had the life beat out of him or really the dealer was usually a player who had to feed the kids and whose wife got tired of the late night gigs. (Remember live music? What a time...but I digress)...what did he or she do? They opened a guitar store. No formal training, no business plan....Out of that crop came a handful of great serial entrepreneurs but really the mortality rate of these stores were massive. What am I getting at? The advent of the category killer and the big box retailers and the dealers basing everything on price..but for a few cases your dealer became the lead blanket they put on your chest when you go to the dentists office. At best you were one can and the consumer was the other can and the dealer was the piece of string. That string broke.

Along came the web. The most amazing conduit and distributor of propaganda, misinformation, and bias. Ying and Jerry Yang. My dads biography in Wikipedia is wrong...I tried to change it and they undid my changes and slapped my virtual wrist. If it's Wiki its true. Wiki used to be a hawaiian dance now it is a large partially fact based resource to guide you. If it was a GPS unit you would rarely get to where you wanted to go.

What happened is that nobody sat back and said "There are 20 million guitars out there and our industry pours 90% of of their 'marketising' money in stupidly expensive print media that has 200,000 subscribers. We ignored the 19,800,000 other owners of the product we were trying to sell. We focused on the already converted Why? It was easy and truly we didn't grasp just how big our market was or could be.

I think I got hit by lightning about 15 years ago because I woke up with a crazy thought....What the hell am I doing? Print was in a sprint race with the consumers attention span. They were both losing. The dealers coffee had gone luke warm and I felt like a amp head without a speaker cabinet.

We hired six young artists from Cal Poly...We bought an RV that was the wildest looking thing ever...you could go anywhere and pull up and hang 18 guitars on the side with headphones for the kids to play. We went everywhere there were kids. We were in an industry that thought BMX, Skateboards and Nintendo were threats and competition. I saw an entire industry determined to fight their demographic. How on this green earth....could you fight your demographic and prosper? We saw opportunity... We bought Volkswagens new Beetle and wrapped them in graphics and gave them to dealers to drive...Nobody wrapped vehicles back then...we put someone in business....we joined the Warped Tour, we started the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, We now have two mobile stages. Along comes Brian Ball and he gets us in this new video game called "Guitar Hero".

Now we weren't the first music company approached by Guitar Hero...we were the first to jump, pounce, and attack the opportunity. Meanwhile we see a sales bump within months. Back at our industry association headquarters they hold a summit to determine whether Guitar Hero is good or bad for our business. They will deny it but our industry wouldn't know a game changing opportunity if it landed in bed next to them. I guess they would have preferred it to be called Tractor Hero. A group of self-important artists started an elite campaign like PETA..."Guitarists against Guitar Hero" I am going to start one against fake fur. I threw up in my mouth a little...Sure its a game but the game was in invitation to experience a similar feeling of playing with a band. Duh?
Its a numbers game. The more you expose the more you can convert. Dealers across the country were refusing to stock the game and were fighting it. (remember we are master at fighting change and opportunity) Some dealers got it and had free Guitar Hero lessons. They sold a ton of guitars and real guitar lessons were overbooked.

It's not just our industry...The greatest story that can be told in the last ten years of American Business is Sony vs Apple. In the red trunks was Sony a super heavy weight...armed with the largest catalog of recorded music, artists signed to slave contracts.....they were a powerhouse in consumer electronics..the cherry on the sundae was that they created the personal music player the Walkman. Remember those? I think it's a phone now. In the Blue trunks is Apple quirky personal computer maker with zero music catalog and a 2.4% market share in the computer business and no history of mainstream consumer products......We know who won but nobody talks about the significance of that victory.

There was a kid that really figured out how to deliver music to kids in a manner that they wanted....basically stealing it via the internet. The Music Industry tried to put Sean Fanning (creator of napster) in jail when they should have hired him...talk about fighting your demographic....they litigated and legislated themselves into a pathetic state of non relevance. They focused on the stealing instead of realizing that there was a consumer that tired of having to buy a whole CD when they only wanted one song? Remember 45's? Singles? Most importantly there was a consumer that wanted a different method of acquisition. Apple got it. Sony and the rest of the biz didn't case closed. War over.

The lesson learned here is to understand that opportunity is still everywhere. Amazon is amazing....how come it wasn't Barnes and Noble? The bigger you get as an organization the more opportunity you create for the next generation to cut your legs off and make you irrelevant. You must stay close to your customers.

I have almost 14,000 posts on our forum....My mantra is that I want to be able to smell my customers breath. Occasionally I get accused of pandering there by some newbie. That is the best one....Im there because I eat sleep and breath our company and its products and programs....I get to hang with other addicts. More on that later...time for more coffee.....