Electrifying an Indonesian Brand
Radix Guitars, Indonesia
In the world of electric guitars, maintaining a combination of branding and sponsorships can make or break a company (Stealing Share, 2016). Even if you are not a guitarist, some of the world’s largest guitar companies have successfully merged branding and partnerships to become so well-known that you may have already heard of them (Huffington Post, 2016). Fender and Gibson are some examples of companies that feature artists using their guitars, or partner with an artist, to make unique guitars that bolster their respetctive products and brand names.
Like in many other countries, in Indonesia it is not easy to compete with such well-known brands. “At the beginning, I’m sure many people thought I was crazy to build and design guitars for the Indonesian market, which consists of consumers mainly focused on imported brands,” says Mr. Toein Bernadhie, founder of Radix Guitars, in an interview with WIPO.
“I built Radix Guitars in Indonesia because I felt there was a need and market for an Indonesian brand,” he said. To reach this goal the entrepreneur decided to develop partnerships with famous musicians. Mr. Bernadhie explained that successfully doing so hinged on strategic use of branding and the IP system. “All aspects of our business are based on the synergy of branding and our IP registrations,” he says.
This synergy has allowed Mr. Bernadhie to offer something unique: Indonesian-made guitars, produced mostly by hand, designed together with famous Indonesian musicians who also promote the Radix brand.
As Mr. Bernadhie was quick to point out, the electric guitar business is not new. Modern technology for mass production has been available for over half a century, with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines (used for precise, computer-controlled carving of wood) readily obtainable. Using this technology Mr. Bernadhie decided to apply his woodworking experience to designing, manufacturing, and selling electric guitars. This was the easy part – building a reputable and desirable brand in a competitive market dominated by well-known international companies was the real challenge.
A keen entrepreneur, Mr. Bernadhie needed to differentiate his guitars from the flood of popular imported guitars in the Indonesian market. He found it by creating guitars designed with popular domestic professional guitarists, allowing his company to provide Indonesian consumers with the chance to not only own the same guitar their favorite musicians use, but also one they designed.
“Design is very important for the guitar business,” he said. “I believe people first choose a guitar based on the design, so we work very carefully and closely with musicians to design guitars that capture their technical requirements and vision.” According to Mr. Bernadhie, this strategy allowed him to develop guitars that meet the quality requirements of professional musicians, provide a high level of reliability, and give professionals and amateurs alike pride in using an Indonesian made guitar.
Branding and partnerships
Mr. Bernadhie was eager to develop his business and by the early 2000s had already built guitars but lacked a competitive brand.
“Competition is tough in the Indonesian guitar market,” he says. “It is hard to introduce an Indonesian-made guitar in a market dominated by imported brands. I realized that if I wanted to compete I needed not only unique designs but also a strong brand that sounds good, is easy to remember, and can convey the image of my company.” Doing so, he explained, would help him obtain what he believed to be integral to his success: partnerships with professional Indonesian musicians.
Mr. Bernadhie decided on Radix, which is based off one of his names and met all his criteria: it is easy to say and remember, sounds good, and conveys the company’s Indonesian roots. He bet that his brand and the message behind it would help him foster relationships with Indonesian musicians.
His bet paid off and he was soon collaborating with popular Indonesian artists to design and sell guitars that best suit their tastes and playing styles. This approach proved popular with consumers, as they could own a guitar model designed and used by their favorite Indonesian guitarist.
“We collaborate and cooperate with famous Indonesian guitarists to design and create signature artist guitars. We believe this approach helps us attain a strong foothold in the Indonesian market,” said Mr. Bernadhie. “We chose artists who are some of the best in their field (such as Andre Tiranda of Siksa Kubur, Eet Sjahranie of EDANE, Edwin Marshall Sharif of Cokelat, and Rama Satria Clapproth of Rama and the Electric Mojos) and this has had positive marketing results. For example, these artists use our guitars at large concerts in Indonesia, proving the quality of our guitars and making them more desirable for consumers.”
Trademark registration goes hand in hand with Radix’s use of branding. As Mr. Bernadhie said, “in this kind of business a trademark registration is especially important because unless you have a trademark you cannot claim or defend your brand.”
Mr. Bernadhie believes his company has reached its current level of success because of his trademark registration. “Our guitars are built in Indonesia and I believe Indonesians can build guitars just as well as large foreign companies. But we need to convey this to consumers. A trademark registration helps us achieve this by legitimizing and protecting our brand.”
Per Mr. Bernadhie, the legitimization of his brand through trademarks helps his customers, professional musicians, and his competitors take him seriously. In concert with his branding strategy, trademarks ultimately help Radix compete with much larger multinational companies and deliver Indonesian-made guitars that meet the needs of professional guitarists and consumers.
Commercialization and business results
“We never set out to mass produce a huge number of guitars. This is something our competitors are already doing. Instead, we aim to connect directly with our customers through offering uniquely designed guitars marketed under a solid Indonesian brand,” said Mr. Bernadhie. According to the company, this approach sees it producing approximately 200 guitars per month of varying designs.
Radix guitars are also sold internationally through partnerships with various dealers in countries such as the USA, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea. As it expands, the company sees the continued importance of the IP system. “We plan to register our trademark abroad because we want to expand our market internationally,” said Mr. Bernadhie.
While the overall production numbers cannot compete with larger companies, Radix has developed a successful niche company through a business model based on branding, trademarks, and partnerships with guitarists to develop a popular, well-known line of Indonesian guitars. “I’m very proud of Radix because today it has become one of the top guitars for many of the most popular Indonesian musicians,” says Mr. Bernadhie.
Embracing an Indonesian brand
No matter how innovative, Mr. Bernadhie says that a design alone is not enough. “Developing a brand that instills a high degree of confidence in consumers and professionals through craftsmanship, durability, and versatility, along with using the IP system, will bring a much greater chance of success,” he said.
In the case of Radix, this approach has served the company well to build a strong customer base and sponsorship family that embrace the Radix brand. As Mr. Bernadhie explained, “our sponsors and customers are very confident in our brand and feel Radix is not just the company’s brand, but also their brand.”
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