Page 52

V E D D AT O R I A L By Dan Vedda

“We've all seen what happens when a freely distributed product line hits platforms like the Amazon marketplace. Knockoffs, lowballers, and fly-by-night merchants are not the way to build brand loyalty. ” 52

We’ve talked about the difficulties brands face on platforms like Amazon, particularly the damage done to brand reputation by counterfeits and low-ball pricing. Dilution is an issue, too. The more products that bear the brand name while straying from the core business, the less focused the identity can be. The “Baldwin by Gibson” band instruments from a few seasons ago are certainly one example from our industry, particularly because they showed up in outlets like Target rather than mainstream MI channels. There’s a hazy boundary between brand ubiquity and brand pandering, and landing too far south of the line squanders the goodwill attached to the name. Add the ease with which new brands can enter the market — whether fly-by-night knockoffs or retailerbacked alternatives — and iconic brands throughout the economy are under increasing pressure to remain viable, or even visible. As reported in March, Dick’s Sporting Goods, arguably under its own pressure to remain relevant as a brick-and-mortar purveyor while beset by ever-growing online competition, is embracing a strategy that strengthens its brand while de-emphasizing prominent brands from its own industry. It can attempt this because the brands it has stocked in the past are now much less of a draw than they’ve been historically. After all, when you can get

“name-brand” goods online, cheaply (sometimes so cheaply that you overlook the possibility of counterfeits) and quickly, a store with an “exclusive” that really isn’t one won’t be a draw. So, Dick’s is discontinuing its association with Adidas-owned Reebok and instead launching its own brand that will replace Reebok in time for back-to-school sales. It has already seen success with its own sports apparel lines (like the Carrie Underwood-aligned CALIA brand), which has led to shrinking emphasis on the Under Armour label. The reasoning seems to be that shoppers come to Dick’s not for specific brand apparel products, but because they are Dick’s customers. This tactic sidesteps both price-grinding web retailers and pond-scum counterfeiters, all while building goodwill and brand recognition. While not a new concept by any means (recall the glory days of Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances at Sears), it signals a timely return to a solid retail concept that has proven itself with American consumers. I believe this trend has a parallel in our industry. With the explosion of house brands and boutique or distributor lines of combo products, it’s not unusual to walk into a store that carries somewhat unfamiliar brands, often devoting significant space and marketing to them. These are often

significantly more profitable, less plagued by counterfeits, and generally offer equal or better value than similarly priced namebrand goods. While band instruments have not made the same inroads (largely due to the influence of band directors and bad experiences with so many internet brands), orchestral strings have adhered to the private-label model for more than a century, leading to a field with so many names it’s impossible for consumers to develop brand loyalty. The very nature of the string market swings away from the “multiple acquisition” model so beloved among guitarists. Violinists and their instruments tend to be bonded as musical partners, where guitarists tend to think of their instruments as an arsenal. Piano dealers have long had stencil brands, although with mixed success due to financial and sourcing burdens. This trend should trouble the brands in our industry, particularly those not thought of as iconic. (Realistically, that means all but about five.) Everyone else should be making plans to shore up brand identity. In today’s market, I think that means cleaning up the image, offerings and distribution rather than trying to get the brand splashed everywhere. We’ve all seen what happens when a freely distributed product line (that is provided to anyone who writes a big enough check) JUNE 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer June 2019, Vol 36 No 6  

In June’s Summer NAMM Preview issue, we recap the RPMDA Annual Convention, give insight into what’s in store for Summer NAMM attendees next...

Music & Sound Retailer June 2019, Vol 36 No 6  

In June’s Summer NAMM Preview issue, we recap the RPMDA Annual Convention, give insight into what’s in store for Summer NAMM attendees next...