Hailing from the centre of the rock world, Paraparaumu, Red Witch Analog Pedals had already won support from bands like Guns ‘n Roses and U2 for its high-end professional gear and had grown at a phenomenal 365 percent over four years. But growth slowed in 2011 as the recession bit in its key markets of US and Japan, so, to get back into gear, it worked with some of the world’s great guitarists, talked with retailers and distributors, analysed the products of its competitors and decided to launch seven new technologically advanced but affordable effects pedals aimed squarely at the mass-market.
Red Witch had spent six years building up its position at the very top of the premium guitar pedal world. So it was moving into uncharted territory with these pedals and the move required a whole new, much larger distribution chain. It was a massive undertaking. Not even the major multinational players had tried to launch seven pedals simultaneously. But research highlighted the fact that there was a gap in the market for an entry-level pedal that was able to offer the added cool factor that came from purchasing a high-end, boutique brand.
The technology itself was innovative enough to capture the target market’s attention: they were the world’s first rechargeable guitar pedals and they were also small, something that appealed to touring musicians. But it also differentiated the range by giving each of them a name (Grace, Ruby, Ivy, Scarlet, Eve, Iris, and Amelia) and a saucy story.
Consumers were wary of the marketing claim that the pedals could be amazing and affordable, particularly in the USA, so its strategy was to get A-list artists and the music press to endorse the new products. There was a risk they could erode the brand equity Red Witch had built up in the premium space, so they did not carry the Red Witch name. However, they were delivered in gorgeous packaging that Steve Jobs would probably be proud of.
It spread the word on its own online forum and its YouTube channel, which hosted demonstration videos for each product. And its Facebook page was also powerful, with world-class artists like Andy Summers from The Police and others posting videos of themselves using the products. Chief executive Ben Fulton also travelled to the NAMM show in Los Angeles, the music world’s largest music tradeshow, and Music Messa in Germany to launch the products.
The Seven Sisters upset a boring category dominated by multinationals and the products are now available in 4,000 stores in the United States (up from 120 mostly owner-operated stores beforehand), in seven new regions in Europe and through major online guitar retailers like Guitar Center, Amazon.com and Sweetwaters. Sales have tripled in the past two years, turnover was up 67 percent this year compared to 21 percent in 2011, it won the prestigious 2011 ‘Pedal Builder of the Year Award’ from the influential guitar gear internet site, www.whatsthatdudeplay.com and, as a result of reaching business targets, the company has raised another $600,000 in new equity from investors to continue the growth. Better still, only 50 percent of the garage-band-sized budget of just $30,000 was spent to achieve it all.
As well as international artists endorsing the product—none of whom are paid to do so—every leading guitar magazine in the world reviewed the products and ranked them up there with the very best in the world. As the editor of Premier Guitar magazine said: “The Seven Sisters are a pioneering innovation, and founder Ben Fulton deserves a Boy Scout medal for the work he’s done.”
Talk about rock and roll.
Awards: Boston Digital Transformational and Technology
Winner: Red Witch Analog Pedals
Judge’s comment: “What’s not to like about a world first Kiwi technology, marketed globally on a miniscule budget, beating all the big guys and making a tonne of money for its shareholders. It was a fantastic case study and it’s just great to see a Kiwi brand really kick ass on a world stage.”