State of the Industry.
The last few years of growth in the musical instrument manufacturing market have been less than stellar. We could talk at length about the contributing factors, ranging from lack of funding for school music programs all the way up to the booming used-instrument market. While the near future may not look so bright for the marketplace at large, the brands who position themselves as innovators might weather the storm better than most.
Being a marketer, I’m as concerned about the MI economy as anyone else. From the player perspective, though, I couldn’t be happier. As with everywhere else in our lives, better technology and improved manufacturing methods have upped the performance game while reducing costs. Gone are the days where I care to carry a 40-pound amp head and pedal board around from practice space to gig. These days my tone shaping and power needs are all available at a fraction of the size and weight. As for home recording, pretty much every amp and effect I could possibly want is a plug-in away. My point? If you’re one of the innovative brands breaking ground with technologies like these, there’s never been a better time to get that message across.
Why is the innovation message so important to your brand?
From a technological standpoint, this is the greatest era to be a part of, and consumers are eating up the products and brands that are leading the way. As evidenced by Apple on a regular basis, consumers are willing to pay a premium for innovative products. Not necessarily because Apple is the superior product, but because the brand has done an incredible job of positioning itself as an innovator, and that perception is incredibly important when it comes to purchase decisions. According to a 2015 study conducted by Lab42, 84% of electronics consumers indicated that it is somewhat or very important that the company they buy from is an innovator. Furthermore, more than 83% of those respondents would be willing to pay a premium, sometimes as much as 40% more.
For MI brands that want to not only survive but also grow, in the current marketplace, marketing your innovation chops will play a critical role.
How do brands become innovators?
Over the course of many a NAMM show, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some pretty brilliant brands. Folks who can design and build things beyond what I could imagine possible. That gift of design and engineering does not make a brand innovative, however. The brands that make the leap from incredible builders to innovators will recognize the most critical step in concepting an innovative product is giving the customers what they want. Why? Because, at the end of the day, brands that don’t listen to their customers will find those customers have left the brand in search of a better solution.
This puts the emphasis squarely on consumer insight. Research will be key, and you’ll have to develop a strategy that includes engagement with both the players and the retail audience that is out in the field day-to-day getting player feedback. Leverage those design skills to better deliver to the players, and you’ll find yourself moving up the innovation ladder.
Telling the innovative brand story.
The player’s toolkit consists of two key components: lots of gear and a ton of inspiration. Today’s player is more sophisticated than previous generations. They know how to tinker, and experimentation is a regular part of their routine. Your brand message begins here. At the top of the funnel, your more traditional branding efforts will need to speak to players in an inspirational manner. The evidence behind the brand promise is where the heavy lifting comes in. When it comes to shaping player perceptions regarding innovation, influencers play a significant role.
Trust in brand messaging is less than it used to be. For this reason, consumers look to other sources to get credible information about products. Those trusted sources typically come in the form of professional reviews, media articles, friends and peers. To legitimately secure your place as an innovator and industry expert, you’ll need to build a public relations plan and content strategy that arm your brand influencers and ambassadors with the facts behind the story. Your brand’s dedication to the player audience and ability to share the knowledge that makes you innovative will serve you well in a rapidly and continuously evolving MI market.