This Underdog Guitar Maker Is Teaching the Industry How Marketing Really Works

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Last October, I wrote a review for an instrument-making startup called Lava Music.

I wanted to write this quick article today to just point out a few things that I feel Lava Music is doing right. I am hoping to see more of these qualities emulated by other instrument makers. Because anyone buying an acoustic guitar appreciates a more premium experience regardless of their budget.

Lava was kind enough to send me their Pro acoustic guitar model, and there is a review for that in the works. In the meantime, I wanted to focus on a few things that I won’t be mentioning in my review because they are about the company itself.

Accessories and Packaging

When I received the full-sized acoustic from Lava (the Lava Pro), I was impressed by the nice inclusions. First, they include a fairly high-end case for their price point. In fact, both the travel guitar ($700) and the full sized ($1,200) include a relatively sturdy softshell case. It’s not a flight case or anything I would feel safe checking with an airline, but it’s much nicer than what I’m used to getting at these price points (which is a flimsy gig bag if anything at all).

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A pretty decent case for a free add-in!

When I opened the package and looked at the guitar, my wife (who designs packaging for a living) immediately said “oh, they must really like Apple.” Apple is one of the best companies to emulate when it comes to packaging and positioning in marketing, so this can be considered a good thing, even if it’s less innovative.

Even the tags that are on the product are foil stamped and made from thick card-stock. They are reminiscent of Apple’s “Designed by Apple in California” messaging.

This made me think of "Designed by Apple in California."
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This made me think of "Designed by Apple in California."
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This made me think of “Designed by Apple in California.”

Creating a new category

Something interesting to note about the brand is that they are coming in as an affordable luxury brand. That’s a gap that needed to be filled. Previously, there were a handful of tiers in acoustic guitars that hadn’t changed in the 15 or so years that I have been frequenting music stores.

Previously, your options primarily consisted of:

  • $50 – $150: cheap models (you typically get what you pay for);
  • $175 – $300: the slightly-less-cheap and approaching-decent models (sometimes you can get super lucky and they sound great);
  • $300 – $750: the mid-tier guitars that are great for most people;
  • $750 – $1,500: high-end with lower quality materials or manufactured in worse conditions (example: Martin or Taylors with faux wood backs, or guitars manufactured in questionable conditions to drive down the cost); and then
  • $1500+:  high-end

Differentiating and smart marketing

I also like that Lava are including some built-in effects. I have a lot more to say about them in my full review, but I appreciate that they are doing something that adds to the fun of the instrument right out of the box.

Lava is doing stuff right outside of the products themselves. For one, they see the value in working with Digital Music News. I can acknowledge that I am biased in that, but I often come across companies with a niche target market who are focusing their outreach efforts on things like PR or social media ads. These are sub-optimal for reaching a niche audience (and it should be noted that social media companies often do nothing to mitigate hate speech on their platforms, perpetuating and worsening a massive global problem). 

Instead of blowing a few thousand dollars per month on a retainer for PR or sub-optimal/unethical advertising, Lava has one person who just emails sites like ours to see if we would be interested in reviewing their products. And it works! Here I am, talking about them.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think Lava is off to a great start and I am hoping to see more companies take cues from them. They have a unique product in a unique price point and they seem to be smart people. Acoustic guitars that you can just pick up and  play with some effects and no cables is a great thing for hobbyists with expendable income. It’s a lot of fun to play around with, and it can really enhance the sound produced by a standalone musician with no cables or additional gear. 

I recommend them to anyone who needs a guitar at either price point ($700 or $1,200) and it’s a great option for singer-songwriters and buskers as well thanks to the portability and built in effects.

But Lava’s smart approach goes beyond guitarmaking; they’re also beating the competition with savvy marketing, product packaging, and price positioning.  Which is why I think you’re going to hear more from Lava in the future.



4 Responses

  1. Amy Vanderbilt

    Noah, please accept these revisions with grace. I mean no harm but must rewrite your first paragraph.

    I write this article to point out a few things I feel Lava Music does correctly. I hope other instrument makers follow Lava’s example. Anyone buying an acoustic guitar appreciates a premium experience regardless of their budget.

    • Amy Vanderbilt

      Avoid gerunds, passive voice, adjectives, and adverbs and your writing is more powerful.

      No charge. I come from a long line of English teachers and writers.

    • Amy Vanderbilt

      Also, remember what Truman Capote (a complete weirdo but good writer) said:

      “I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil.”

      Edit, edit, edit, and cut every word that the sentence can do without.

  2. KB

    You may damage your reputation as a news outlet by posting advertisements as if they are news articles.