Great things don’t die.
Among musicians, Moog – the storied innovator and maker of synthesizers – is iconic. This despite the company having once been sold, the buyer disfranchising Moog’s engineering team, then going under, then being revived by the founder (Bob Moog) who later passed away. In an age where digital, software controlled synthesizers are much more versatile than Moog’s analog gear, Moog is growing. Mainstream musicians and Hollywood studios clamor for their products. It is a sign of coolness for a road musician to have at very least a Minimoog on stage.
A brand based on somethings
Key to Moog’s revival was the brand itself. This is not as simple as it sounds. After selling the original company, Bob Moog lost the right to call any of his gear “Moog”. He resorted to etching is signature onto the visible surface of his newer devices, though he eventually won back the right to use his family name as a brand name.
Moog was an innovator. The “modern” electronic music industry was largely launched by Moog and some others in the 1960s, and fed a bit of the psychedelic and progressive rock music of the era (though oddly, The Monkeys released the first album that used a Moog synthesizer). Moog did what was needed to make synthesizers popular with working musicians; they were built like war machined (road worthy), gave musicians great latitude in sound control, and they were clean sounding.
It was this attention to the needs of their target market that made Moog “must have” gear. It was this brand image that allowed Moog to survive through an always changing music industry, the sell and rebirth of his company, and to grow again in the 21st century. Sound, engineering, and sound engineering.
The story tells the story
Central to Moog’s customer buzz and formal marketing is story telling (notable that “legacy” is a main menu item on their web site). Much of marketing is storytelling, be it a customer case study, a corporate backgrounder, or even a product brochure. Moog is growing in no small part because they are able to tell multiple types of stories – the legend, the history, the current headliners who use their products – to amplify their brand. Their corporate offices are practically wallpapered with Moog history (the photo of George and Ringo inspecting gear is memorable) and their artist relations manager combs for current music idols who rely on Moog equipment.
Part of the story is the untold story. To maintain the quality that made Moog legendary among working musicians, everything (aside from some printed circuit board work) happens under the same roof. The support team is steps away from the engineering squad so that any trending repair works goes into improving product design. Marketing, sales and support can easily and openly commune. Even photography and video work are done in the same offices (which is very useful when a headliner on tour comes through town and can be persuaded to demo gear in the video vault, which takes us back to storytelling).
It might have been tempting to Moog at various times to design cheaper gear, more consumer oriented instruments, offshore to Chinese manufacturing … in short, everything Silicon Valley focuses on. But Moog knows its own legend, and how to multiply the effect. It might have been a fleeting thought to go digital, but staying analog was their origin and now their differentiator.
A brand can be stretched only so far before it breaks. Moog will not break.