I’m a guitar player and have been for going on 20 years. In the words of Wayne’s World’s Garth Algar – “I like to play”.
My love for music is a huge part of what defines me and while I couldn’t pack an arena by any stretch of the imagination, I can usually hold my own with the musicians I come across. As far as material possessions go, my Gibson Les Paul is among my most prized. And even though my first purchase 20 years ago wasn’t a Gibson (it was in fact -gasp- a Fender), I promised myself that I’d one day own a Gibson. It took more than a decade an a half to fulfill that promise but, a few years ago, almost on impulse, I pulled the trigger.
Hold back your tears… the purpose of that story was not to reflect on a boy and his longing for a killer 6-string. My point was that 15 years is a incredible amount of time to hold on to a brand as an aspiration.
Owning an Les Paul was always a boyhood dream. But come on, I’m now in my thirties – surely I didn’t think that owning a Gibson would transform me into Slash or Jimmy Page. Of course not (though that would be some nifty marketing). So what is so dang enduring about the Gibson brand? Well…
1) Gibson symbolizes an uncompromising approach to quality, and dog gonnit, I’m worth it. If it’s good enough for Slash, it’s good enough for me.
2) Gibson owners are fanatical about, well, Gibsons. While I don’t own a Harley, I imagine the kinship to be comparable. There’s a mutual respect and admiration that comes with owning a Gibson – as if it gives you immediate credibility. Part of it is their branding and pricing strategy – which even at the low end will cost you more than most high end guitars – making ownership an elite club among the musically enlightened. But it’s not just fancy marketing. Last year I had the honor of playing in a fundraiser and tribute to the late (but always great) Les Paul himself and I was amazed at the immediate kinship people had despite having never met before. Yes we were all musicians but this was more than just simple commonality. Which goes to my next point…
3) People are fanatical for the brand, but the brand is also what it is because owners are so fanatical. Or put more simply, Gibson is a brand, personified. The zealots are Michael to Gibson’s Air Jordan. But with even more zeal. Just go on youtube and look up Gibson. From young to old, from hack to pro – people are showing off their finely tuned axes. There is an incredible symbiotic relationship, a personal pride that defines those musicians, and that in turn feeds the brand. And the best part is that it costs Gibson nothing in terms of marketing dollars.
Play a word association game with a Gibson owner and you’ll see what I mean.
…Party on Wayne.