The Taylor Guitar Story: Going from Start-up to Industry Leader
Taylor Guitars is practically a household name among musicians, going from complete anonymity to a household name Bob Taylor, who co-founded the company and serves as its president, wrote a book entitled Guitar Lessons: A Life’s Journey Turning Passion into Business,ï in which he used the Taylor Guitar story to teach a timeless lesson about making it in business. It’s all about branding.
Bob made his first guitar when he was just a kid. He had natural talent and a depth of interest that combined to quickly make him better than competent as a guitar craftsman. In short order, he was producing a completed guitar every week or two. Having an entrepreneurial spirit filled Bob with a desire to go beyond merely showing people his increasingly well-crafted instruments. He wanted to make some money, as well. However, he was stymied by the fact that, while many were impressed with his work, no one would buy a guitar from him. These early setbacks in the Taylor guitar story helped Bob recognize the value of branding.
Three Legs of Branding
Bob identified three ïlegsï he sees as fundamentally important to building a brand. The legs are broadly defined as production, sales and finance.
-Production encompasses things such as employee relations, quality control, training and R&D.
-Sales is made up of items such as marketing planning, company branding, public relations and customer service.
-Finance is the area of fiscal responsibility, customer credit, vendor relationships, employee benefits and community service.
Taylor is confident his company wouldn’t have made it without focusing on the three ïlegs.ï It took a lot of hard work, but he was able to achieve success in each arena, slowly working on sales while fine-tuning his approach. As he mastered the broad concept of each leg, he also refined the design of his guitar because, without an excellent guitar, no one was going to stop and buy.
Thanks to all that effort, the Taylor Guitar story now includes holding the top-selling position for acoustic guitars in the United States, and daily producing hundreds of guitars. Their brand is now renowned beyond the guitar-playing public. Over the years, people have come to know the company for many things in addition to their excellent guitars, such as business practices, environmental work, employee relations, local presence and celebrity players.
Understanding the Differences Between Product and Brand
Bob points out that one of the most important things a company can do as it grows is to seek ways to brand itself through differentiation. A first step toward achieving this objective is to recognize that your product and your brand aren’t the same things. Your product is the tangible item that you sell. Your brand, on the other hand, represents the value of your company to consumers.
Differentiation for Successful Branding
Taylor decided to focus on quality, both subjective and objective. He and his business partner set out to make guitars that played better and sounded different. Before too long, recording engineers and guitar players had begun to replace ïdifferentï with ïbetterï when they spoke of Taylor Guitars. The company innovated by adding electric pickups to its guitars, something nearly unheard of at the time, yet when the market finally came around, Taylor was pretty much the only game in town. Now Taylor Guitars leads the fastest-growing segment of the market.
After making a few basic strides, Taylor began to build their branding up. They hit the market with unusual advertisements that spoke directly to the feelings that people got from playing and loving the look, feel and sounds of guitars. They created an association with a feeling that transferred into a love for the Taylor Guitar story as well as a love for the Taylor guitar.
Creating a Lifestyle
Then they took it to the next level by extending their brand into their customers lives with a magazine called Wood & Steel, dealer events, festivals and factory tours. They reached out to get spouses and significant others involved and included in the love guitar aficionados had for their instruments. In short Taylor Guitars turned their brand into a lifestyle.
Bob Taylor sees everyone from the waiter at a restaurant, to a guitar buyer, to the wood cutters in India, to the printer of the company magazine ad part of Taylor Guitar’s story. He strives to include them all in the story of his company. For Taylor, branding never stops.
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