Happy Holidays! This is Chris Parks for the Technology Marketing Center, with another post about my journey marketing a disruptive technology through opinion leaders.
In many industries businesses have the benefit of a user base that does in fact want something new that actually delivers the “goods.” We all want business to business relationships that have well understood metrics and payoffs for the advantageous technology we are trying to sell.
But the music industry is a whole different animal. (Admittedly, it’s one gnarly Petri dish of crazy business practices!) It’s one that can leave even the best marketers shaking in their frustrated and depressed boots.
The music industry truly desires old and finicky technology. Customers want the particular sound and look and feel that comes only from vintage guitar amp tube technology, rejecting any other technology as inferior prima facie without even a serious consideration. Many retail managers and clerks have staked their considerable reputations and careers on combating the very notion that anything else even could work. So, we have our work cut out for us. But what could we do? The well entrenched brands in the market space are highly respected. No frontal assault will ever take over that massive fortress guarded by opinion leaders who stake their entire reputations on validating the sound quality of ancient technology.
By avoiding the controversial topics and staying focused on "proving" the technology to influential musicians one at a time, we stepped over objections amongst the highly devoted loyalists who are the gatekeepers to the channel. We actively targeted opinion leaders in unusual (and yes, occasionally the “usual” places, as well). When opinion leaders happened upon us we would take the time to thoroughly explain all the benefits, which is something we could never expect the average guitar store manager to do. Our goal is to develop an educated user base that becomes the backbone of a growing “voice” on the internet.
This is perhaps one of the clearest cut cases of a need for a guerilla marketing strategy, which is exactly the strategy we selected. Setting out on a brand building course, we started doing everything you wouldn’t expect.
We sold direct to the end consumer instead of what everyone expected which is selling through established distribution channels.
We took out full page ads but not necessarily about the product itself. Instead we focused on the passion and love of music our founder Patrick Quilter exudes. Patrick personifies the brand, and has a track record of delivering benefits of new technology without sacrificing quality of sound.
We restored a 1968 airstream and turned it into a mobile demo booth that musicians could step inside to try out our amps: lined wall to wall with high end guitars that are just dreamy to play. To create interest we showed up at unusual places like air shows, car shows, and other places where you really wouldn't expect an amp company. Not surprisingly, the competitors weren't there, and so we stole the show regularly and created touch points which let successful musicians do more than "try out" the product. We empowered them to spread the truth of the differentiated and truly competitive product features.
It is imperative that you seek to garner support not just inside your distribution channels but also in the context of the underlying consumer base. (Especially when they may have a bone to pick with you fixing the technology they already know and love.) Meet them where they live and play and work out of the line of fire of the barrage of competitive tradeshows and events where you can't really get a word in edgewise. It is a strategy that takes some patience and fortitude, but the returns will ultimately last longer and provide a far greater return.
Cheers until next time.