There are more Highland bagpipe makers now than ever before and it seems that new makers come on the scene every week. I was corresponding with one well-established maker the other day and he was bemoaning the fact that there are many makers, but the most successful seem to be those who don’t necessarily have the best workmanship but have the best marketing and lowest prices.
Marketing of course is the make-or-break of any product or business. Sure, you have to have a decent piece of merchandise, but who will buy it if they don’t know about it and don’t hear about credible people using it happily?
Two of the most successful and biggest pipe-makers, McCallum and Naill, have done marketing right by leading with public relations supported by good advertising. They also are both capable of making instruments of the highest order, of course.
But their PR efforts have been spot-on, for the most part: put the instruments in the hands of top players and bands and let them do the talking; offer pipes as coveted prizes at prestigious professional and amateur contests; chalk up first-prizes won with their drones and chanters and publicize them everywhere; and avoid having reps from the company judging competitions.
I feel sorry for some of the smaller pipe-makers that are making finely crafted instruments and charging a premium for them but have no marketing accumen. There will always be a niche market for those best-kept-secret pipe-makers, and perhaps that’s all they want, but success in bagpipe-making is like any other industry: the best marketing wins every time.
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