Gibson lawsuit: In defense of Gibson

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Oldschool59, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    In light of the recent ‘’Play Authentic’’ events, I’d like to offer a somewhat contrarian view to the ‘’Guitar Justice Warriors’’ out here raining fire on Gibson.

    To begin with, I’m not pro-Gibson. I own and play a 2013 R9, which is a great Les Paul, bought new. While a great iconic guitar, with killer tone played through a 100W Marshall, it is not my favorite instrument. By far. It is chunky, unwieldy, and much more a struggle to play than most of my other guitars. But I did not buy it for playability, I got it because I’ve always wanted one, and it is everything I expected an L-P to be. No more, no less. So, while I enjoy my Gibson, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool fan boy. Far from it.

    I come at this post from a perspective of business. I think that Gibson’s actions are not the problem, but rather its approach is. Let’s think on this for one minute: in the business world, nobody spends a penny if they don’t have to, unless they’re sub-par operators. So suing a competitor for any type of infringement is not done lightly, and without cause. I surmise that ‘’cause’’ in this case, is business lost to makers of similar guitars. This must cost Gibson a pretty penny, or at least must appear to do so in their financial projections. So, right or wrong, proven or otherwise, someone up top at Gibson must think that their top line is affected by copies. Well, what do you do?

    1) Analyze your options, and derive multiple rectification scenarios.

    2) Pick the least costly one, most likely to result in success. Optimize.

    In these types of cases, the company will have contacted the various competitor, explain to them (of course, via legal channels) the nature of the prejudice/injury, and seek that the competitors desist. In the absence of understanding, Gibson will have had to decide to sue. But you just don’t sue: your brand image will likely suffer from what will be perceived by some slices of your target demographics as an aggressive, imperial and bullying business attitude. Note that I say ‘’ perceived’’, and that it does not matter whether in fact you are such a corporate citizen, it is sufficient that people think that you are to be negatively impacted. So, what do you do? Well, work on your demographics. Put out a message out there, justify your right to uphold your brand, and while you’re at it, wax a little poetic about your brand and try to strengthen its position at the same time. In other words, a typical marketing day.

    Enter Agnesi. The Brand Experience Director. A direct marketing product/tool gone wrong. All this commotion is caused by two things: pre-existent bias against Gibson (some of this negativity against the brand is in fact a huge asset for Gibson, we can get into this later, it isn’t today’s topic) and especially by a completely ill-conceived, ill-delivered, ill-connected message. Simple as that. I believe that Gibson’s only mistake is not to have thoroughly vetted this guy, and to have poorly controlled his message. He is clearly not up to the job, and Gibson is now paying for it with its image. Again. I think the hyper-connected world in which we live in will force all companies to take a good look at their brand image, and season to taste.

    In closing, I believe that this whole affair is a typical business scenario of right idea, wrong execution. Happens to the best of us. Hindsight and all that… But if we must object to something, let’s pick on the sloppy execution, not pick on the instruments. Maybe a Gibson guitar is not for you. Maybe a Fender is. Maybe a Suhr. Only you know. But it is wrong to conflate instrument quality (Gibson has all levels, for all budgets, just like Fender does), with a marketing strategy. In this day and age, everyone thinks they can operate a business. We are all experts and arm-chair coaches. We forget that we do not have all the facts, and we are happy and eager to fill in the gaps with our own prejudices. Running a business, especially one with such baggage as Gibson, in NOT EASY. I’m sure everyone in the cross-hairs wakes up with only the best intentions.

    At the end of the day, play what you enjoy. Have fun and stay safe. Cheers.
     
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  2. paulbearer

    paulbearer Member

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    ^Seems like the objection on TGP, no?
    The instrument quality thing is years old.
     
  3. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    If it were only about the messenger, I would not have posted. Some guys are now actively looking for alternatives, etc... Mind you, they have been doing it for years. This Gibson love-hate relationship is very old. And proof that the brand is very strong indeed. Cheers.
     
  4. FiestaRed869

    FiestaRed869 Member

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    I think Fender has lost a lot more then Gibson has due to people copying their design. There’s infinitely more S type and T type copy’s, especially relics. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say Fenders sale would jump 50% if no company could use the S shape or T shape.
     
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  5. bigolsparky

    bigolsparky Member

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    I don't play Gibson because of the strength of their brand. Most of the Gibsons I would want are, in my opinion, over-valued because of the strength of their brand. Better guitars can be had for much less money.
     
  6. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Silver Supporting Member

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    Gibson should spend their attentions creating a superior product rather than retaining superior legal council. That’s the right way to win customers and brand loyalty.
     
  7. paulbearer

    paulbearer Member

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    Fair enough (I just saw the 'alternatives' thread so I hear you)
    Similar sentiment here:
     
  8. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    Not necessarily. And herein lies the bulk of my original post. I humbly say to you that in their mind, Gibson already have a superior product. While you may hold different consumer preferences, it is important to understand that the question is: Superior product with respect to what? Many guitar brands out there, many different price-points, many different features. It is impossible to please every one. Custom shop buyers are not after the same thing as the Trad. buyers. Many segments, each more or less targeted to specific buyers. Gibson wins or loses over all these segments.
     
  9. therhodeo

    therhodeo Member

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    I wasn't drawn to music and guitar in my teens because I wanted to grow up and think like an MBA with a legal fetish.
     
  10. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    Unfortunately for everyone - Gibson Included - there is zero Customer Loyalty anymore - in general I'd say most people are price based and couldn't care less who delivers it. Guitar Sales are sometimes an anomaly in relation to general retail - which IMO is due to the weird behaviors and reactions to manufacturers by guitarist - but there is one thing I'm sure of - if a company put out a $500 Version of a Les Paul that rivaled (in terms of fit and finish) a Les Paul Standard - they would outsell Gibson by at least 50 to 1 - wait a second - they have - they are called Epiphone - and Epiphone continues to outsell Gibson
    by about 50 to 1.
     
  11. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    And while you don't need said fetish nor an MBA to play guitar, said qualifications are highly valuable to actually run a company.
     
  12. Hari Seldon

    Hari Seldon Member

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    The same for FORD. Think how their sale would jump if they were the only manufacturers of 4 wheel, steerable front axle, combustion engine driven vehicles with a roof, a wheel for steering and 4 seats.
    Same for Gibson.
    But why doesn't Ford sue other motor companies who clearly gain from their stuff?
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019
  13. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Silver Supporting Member

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    My prospective is that Joe Shmo guitar player doesn’t care about all that. Gibson would do best if they focused their attentions to what Joe Shmo guitar player does care about. That’s all.
     
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  14. SRQGuitar

    SRQGuitar Director of the 2019 Like Farming Initiative Gold Supporting Member

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    I've never purchased a guitar and thought "Wait, let me see who they're suing before I buy"

    This obsession with the way Gibson is run baffles me.
     
  15. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    The big problem to me of Gibson making these challenges is that there's only so much room for maneuver when it comes to host design, so it's one thing going after people making exact copies but threatening other manufacturers for designs that are arguably inspired by Gibson leave them coming off like villains. Otherwise if the first person to come up with a set neck, single cutaway small body electric gets sole rights to the idea, I'm guessing Gibson owe Paul Bigsby a fair bit of cash for example. Gibson have been trendsetters and a pitfall of that is that others have come along in their wake borrowing ideas, but ultimately Gibson don't own the generic designs any more than Stradivari, Amati etc on the design of the violin. As the company that made those leaps forward in guitar design, Gibson have immeasurable good will and status - that's the reward they reap, not exclusive rights to anything derived from those designs in perpetuity.

    Gibson's most reasonable cause for complaint is the deluge of cheap rubbish with Gibson on the headstock that's currently pouring out of China. They also have a reasonable argument to go after manufacturers copying everything but the name on the headstock - if you can put a sticker over the name and people will think it's a Gibson, then they're arguably stealing business. But Gibson need to concentrate their firepower on the brands (or factories in the case of the chibson market), because as soon as they start pursuing companies that haven't directly copied the designs they're on very weak legal ground, and when they include small makers they quickly start to come off as bullies.

    There's a secondary problem nowadays that Gibson have a very particular agressive standard towards dealers - no Mom and Pop shops, just have high turnover, must stock everything Gibson tell them to even if they're a specialist operating a particular market - so lots of dealers no longer stock Gibson. In the UK they pretty much won't talk to anyone that didn't have a 50k order and enough wall space for 40+ guitars. Since most guitar shops have to have something resembling a Les Paul, 335 etc on the wall, if Gibson won't sell to them then clearly they're going to have to look elsewhere, and suddenly everyone's got Eastman, Tokai, Collings, Heritage etc, and deny them Epiphone they'll go looking for other budget lookalikes. Most of the small dealers would stick Gibson if they could get it, and most have limited budgets so if they're buying Gibson they're not buying a shop full of copies. So some of the competition they have at this moment in time is partially the product of how they've been doing business.
     
  16. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    I understood you the first time around. But which Joe Shmo should they concentrate on? The $12,000 L-5, the $10,000 limited edition Historic, the $5,000 Custom Shop, the $2,499 Trad, the $1,000 Jr., the $249 Bluetooth player, etc...? They are all different segments, and are priced to win (or try to win) in that space. A trad is not a historic, but because both say Gibson on the headstock, Joe Shmo expects similar quality at both price-points. I agree that Gibson is over-priced (my R9 certainly was), but I did buy it nonetheless. Gibson is acutely aware of the needs for each segment. They still chose to position themselves a certain way, and, because, again, we DO NOT HAVE ALL THE FACTS, we are happy to accuse them of being sloppy. But ultimately, revenues will be dictating their approach. If they suffer, they'll adapt or die. Cheers.
     
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  17. leftygeetar

    leftygeetar Member

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    I thought this was settled years ago in previous lawsuits. Some shapes & etc are too common to protect.
     
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  18. FiestaRed

    FiestaRed Gold Supporting Member

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    Nice first sentence insult
     
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  19. wetordry

    wetordry Member

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    My only curiosity, is hoping for the video that addresses possible in house fixes that might help them claw out of a 560 million dollar hole.
     
  20. Radar

    Radar Member

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    Defending Gibson? Heresy!!! Get out the pitchforks men!!!!

    :mob
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019
    Toby Krebs and Jabberwocky like this.

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