• Brian James Gage

Yamaha Should ReBrand Its Pianos

I'm big on the importance and value brand names. If it doesn't say "Snark" don't buy it - it's junk.

For example, I never felt good about riding or owning a motorcycle that didn't have a DUCATI logo somewhere on the body. Sure there are other fantastic motorcycle brands out there. I happen to love the Harley Davidson V-Rod. And don't get me started on Confederate Motors... But for me – it's Ducati or nothing. Even when there were times those Ducatis almost left me dead in the street at least that totaled motorcycle said Ducati on the tank. And yes, getting hit head on hurts as badly as one might think.

Or even with guitarists – Jimi Hendrix live at Monterrey has much more of an iconic look when it says “Fender” on his guitar. Jimi Hendrix on an Ibanez? Eh – doesn't have the same appeal. If I ever saw Angus Young playing on an Epiphone, a piece of me would die knowing it wasn't a proper Gibson SG. It's not AC/DC unless it's Gibson.

Branding matters. Especially in musical instruments as often times I feel we tend to associate the instrument brand with the same reverence we do to the musician. It's the minute details of the brand associated with the artist that complete the brushstrokes of the story – even if it just happens to be marketing.

I also want to preface this by saying I believe Yamaha is a world class company and makes some great products. That said, in the world of pianos I feel the name Yamaha cheapens the product no matter how well-made they are.

When I watch piano performances on YouTube and see Bösendorfer or Steinway or even Fazioli on the piano, I somehow enjoy the performances even more as I feel it adds a certain mystique to have these wonderful pianos being played upon. I imagine somewhere in the back of my head it even makes me feel they're performing better on a Steinway vs. say a Young-Chang. This is quite silly in reality but to me - it matters.

The fact is Yamaha makes some world class pianos and musical instruments. They are leaders in emerging music technology. I even own a Yamaha N2 which I think is amazing, and at this point wouldn't consider owning a different piano. I just wish it didn't say Yamaha as it constantly reminds me of the cheap plastic keyboard I had when I was twelve.

Maybe I'm just vain. Scratch that. I'm definitely vain, but seeing as Yamaha manufacturers everything from lawnmowers to snowmobiles to industrial robotics, well – I just can't envision cutting the grass with a Steinway lawnmower and then feeling the same about the logo and quality of a Steinway piano.

Yamaha also owns Bösendorfer pianos. And let's just say if I had a choice between owning a Yamaha or Bösendorfer hybrid digital piano – same exact pianos at different price points with different logos. I would choose Bösendorfer everytime.

Say Pepsi Co somehow mastered violin technology and produced the world's most gorgeous sounding violin that surpassed all known violins on Earth in both appearance and performance. Would you want that violin with a Pepsi logo on it – or Stradivarius? I'm pretty sure that's a viola in the photo – but I'm short on time today so deal with it.

This is why I just don't think the name Yamaha stacks up against the quality of instrument they are producing.

From their latest marketing efforts, Yamaha is very much trying to associate itself with the prestige of well known concert pianists and in turn up the perception of their pianos. And they deserve that as the pianos are extremely well-made.

Here's the problem - I don't care how many photos you have of Andrea Keller playing your grands when your logo is also on products for fishing boats. It doesn't work that way. You simply can't push a prestige product with a borderline generic brand name. When you manufacture everything - your logo essentially stands for nothing. The brand name is too diluted by the wide swath of consumer products being produced.

And because I'm a solutions kind of person, allow me to help.

I vote “Imperator”.

Now that would be a brand name I could get behind. So Yamaha marketing team, if you're out there – I wholly respect and support your company. But how about being a team player here and pushing a rebrand on your higher quality pianos to increase the mystique & prestige of such quality instruments? Imperator Pianos sure sounds hot to me! Playing on a Yamaha Piano that's fantastic then firing up my Yamaha Chainsaw just sort of cheapens the whole brand experience for me. Now taking a Yamaha Chainsaw to a Yamaha Piano - well, punk rock and irony all at once?

Sign me up for that.

Wistfully yours,