|1. Foreword||2. Property||3. Manufacturing||4. Electronics||5. Versioning||6. Marketing||7. Distribution||8. Support|
The first key marketing argument for the Rockman line was, of course, Boston. A lot of people have purchased Rockman gear because they loved Boston’s music, and the sound of these records. Rockman "by Tom Scholz" was a sufficient argument in the eighties, and that's a unique situation: would you buy a "Pignose by Kath" ? Probably not, cause the name Kath was not famous enough, while "Pignose by a member of Chicago" would have been too long to write on a portable amp.
But Rockman is not Boston only, of course. You can even become a Rockman-addict without being interested by Boston! So let's review SR&D's marketing and sales strategy without this Boston aspect, as if the tag "by Tom Scholz" had never been here.
Rockman: the name
For the young people born in the eighties or the nineties, the name Walkman is just another word, and Rockman is more likely a video game than a guitar device.
For the older ones (basically, the parents of these young persons!), the "Walkman by Sony" has changed the place of music in the daily life. Before the creation of this "portable K7 stereo player with headphones", what did we have?
Some of these devices were portable, but they were not devices that you could both carry and use at the same time. You could listen to a K7 with friends, or annoy people around you with your radio on the beach. But you couldn't travel by train, go shopping or run in Central Park and listen to your music with what we had.
Headphones: that's what the Walkman has introduced in our lives. In other terms, the first brick of Roger Water's Wall, these Walls of collective individualism that people started building at the end of the seventies: maybe a reaction after too much community life during the hippy period?
The sound quality of the Walkman was amazing for the time: almost hifi. It was a huge success, and the legacy is still here today: the Ipod for example.
How, why and when did Tom Scholz match his amp sim concept with the Walkman headphones stereo concept? That's the real question. Cause after all, 25 years after, the Rockman has little interest as a headphones device, but one thing is clear: it was the first compact device that would allow a guitar player play without an amp. And that's all that really counts.
Without an amp... If you took a little French during you highschool years, you may remember that the french word for "without" is "sans". Got it? Without Amp, "Sans ampli" in french, "Sansamp" back in the US...
Does it mean that Tom Scholz should have named his concept with a similar name (something meaning "no amp" or "amp simulator")? No, not in 1982. The concept was from far too revolutionary, and there was no request from the market for an amp simulation: people were happy with their big amps. Moreover, names that start with "No" or that say "I'm not the real stuff" have little chance to succeed at a large scale.
When Andrew Barta introduced the Sansamp in 1989, things were different. The eighties were the decade of hi-tech rigs, and the Rockman products had made the market more familiar with the DI, no amp concept. The talent of Barta was double: first, an outstanding level of quality, second, the right name for the DI concept. NoAmp wouldn't have worked, but Sansamp did: the market was ready (though the financial winners were the digital gear manufacturers...).
In 1982, the name Sansamp wouldn't have worked. But surfing on the headphones wave was a brilliant idea: it was answering this need of movement and personal (not to say selfish) dynamics that has stamped the eighties. Hence the name Rockman!
Some of you may wonder why others can use the same name for a video game, or why the www.rockman.com web domain doesn't belong to Dunlop. Well, a trademark is associated to an activity domain, and from a legal standpoint, there is no real law enfrigement if one uses a similar name for something different. Fender had to rename the Broadcaster because the name was already used for a drumset by Gretsch, but had it been the name of a car, the renaming wouldn't have been necessary.
You will find an almost complete collection of the ads placed by SR&D in the guitar magazines here.
These ads can be classified in five groups, corresponding to the five periods of SR&D’s history:
Listen to what people have to say. Understand what their concerns are. Make sure that they had the possibility to express their concern, and confirm that your understanding of their concern is correct. Then show them that you have an answer to this concern. Make them believe in what you do, not by claiming “my gear is the best gear”, but by proving that your product is the best solution to their concern. When this is done, you can also go to the next step: convince them that you will always be here for them, when their needs have grown and their requirements have evolved.
Instead of considering the customer as a static entity ("a customer is someone who buys my product"), you consider the customer as someone who has a past (i.e. requirements that need a solution) and a future (what will he/she need after he buys a first product): that's a dynamic vision of what a customer is.
That’s what industrial manufacturers can do, with huge marketing and communication budgets. Not because their products are better (they can be crappy, it doesn’t change anything): they convince people that they have the solution to their concern, usually by proposing a wide offer that says “no matter what you need, we have it”.
To a certain extent, the simple Power Soak commercial ads were closer to this customer approach. The rationale is “You know what the problem with a loud amp is. The Power Soak is the solution to this problem”.
Other ads were, from time to time, also presenting the product as a solution to a concern:
But the strength of SR&D’s marketing was not the ads. The strength was in fact the concept itself.
Once you have purchased a first Rockman module, a half-rack, you will certainly feel like buying another half, especially if you have purchased a Rockman rack-tray that accepts Rockman modules.
Let’s say you have bought a Sustainor and a Chorus/Delay. You will want to refine your sound, and buy two EQ’s, cause you have read in the manuals that in the Rockman concept is based, the EQ’s have a key role. Then you realize that the Sustainor has two channels only, and you buy a Distortion Generator to have a third sound. Of course, these modules become tricky to control with all these footswitches, you will finally buy a Midi Octopus.
You have now six modules and three rack-trays, just because you have, one day, purchased a Rockman Sustainor. Not bad!
That's where the marketing SR&D was dynamic: the product itself places the customer in a story that has a past (before Rockman), a present (buy a module) then a future (buy other modules). The product's concept was itself the basis of this dynamic strategy, while the ads completed the approach via a classic product-oriented communication. The product-oriented communication assumes that the customer is interested by the product. With the Rockman line, you are interested by the next module you will buy, and this new requirement is caused by the modules you have purchased before.
I'm not sure that this strategy was designed on purpose. But all in all, it was brilliant, and it worked!
A user will naturally always consider that what he buys should be cheaper. That’s a natural reflex. But we all know that pricing is a complex subject for a company:
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