As anyone who’s followed me for any period of time knows, I love guitars. Sometimes I think that I love the instrument more than I love playing them. I like to fix, modify, build and even tear them apart on occasion. There are so many amazing things that can be done to the guitar. Simply changing out a set of pickups can change the flavor of the sound from a guitar and place it in a totally different profile in a player’s choice of what to play and when. For decades, the premier guitar brand for rock and roll, jazz, country, literally any style of music in which an electric guitar is able to add color, has been able to rely on the Gibson brand as quality. They’ve long been known as the benchmark, along with Fender, as the premier instruments in their class. Gibson has gone through many changes through the decades. Facing copies in the late seventies so well made and so very less expensive out of China, and Japan, they brought these rogue brands to court in what are now famously known as “Lawsuit” guitars. Some of these lawsuit guitars were so specifically copied from the original Les Paul, that they even copied the Gibson logo, and more discrete nuances, like the binding tolerances, fret size, headstock design etc. At that point, there was only one brand that was allowed to copy the Les Paul design, and that was Epiphone. As a licensed manufacturer, and brand that was tightly tied into the Gibson brand, Epiphone made their own Les Pauls, and acknowledged the differences specifically due to a differing headstock and branding. Many lawsuit guitars, used different branding, in an effort to distinguish from the original. Many used different technologies, like bolt-on necks, lesser electronics, and other hardware, but still others attempted to truly follow design standards. Here’s a good article.
Far more recently, as the prices of Gibson’s true line of ES, SG, Les Paul, and Firebird guitars has risen, also the quality has dropped. So much so that the differential between a for example ESP Guitar, quite similar in style to the original Les Paul, but with slight design differences, can cost as little as a quarter of the price of a Les Paul. Meanwhile, the quality can be quite close, or often better on the ESP model.
Gibson’s quality control has significantly dropped over the past decade. It’s not uncommon to find significant flaws in the workmanship of Gibson guitars. Frets with tines, bindings that come loose from the body, even something as obvious as paint flaws are common. So much so, that as of today, the brand is likely to go under officially, and quite possibly, get acquired by another brand, only to have its flagship line be retooled for a more modern, more savvy buying public. There are so many areas in which we could point to for the failure of the brand, but in true bad management fashion, the CEO has blamed the guitar store for the failure. And here’s the most recent article about it. A good leader will accept blame where it should be, not defer to the competitors, marketplace, changing trends, and/or advancements in technology for their falure to recognize these patterns and adjust themselves.
How many times, particularly in data storage, have we seen companies or product lines become irrelevant due to technology advancement, and patterns within the buying market allowing for competitors to leverage emerging options to achieve the same goals, at far more competitive pricing. Violin Memory, and the DSSD products spring immediately to mind. These products achieved amazing performance in proprietary formats before the rest of commodity type technologies like NVME solid state disc became standard formats and thus the predecessor tech became irrelevant. And as the companies that produced them either abandoned the line, or attempted to retool the product, they struggled to remain relevant.
I believe that these, and other examples are clearly identified as defined in the maxim: Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Analyze your marketplace, attempt to look at trends, and force yourselves to remain relevant. Try to keep on top of things, and plan to change. No matter how good you are, there are always competitors looking to unseat you. Do what you do well, and try to ensure that you’ve a solid business plan for the future.