Casio: In Key with Today’s Consumers

by Denyce Neilson • in
  • Issue Articles
  • July 2018
• Created: July 20, 2018

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Currently the excitement at Casio is all about their latest CT-X3000 and 5000 series of portable keyboards.

Debuted at the 2018 Winter NAMM Show, the new models feature Casio’s AiX Sound Source (an enhanced speaker system), 800 tones, 235 rhythms, Digital Signal Processor (DSP) tones and editing, 17-track MIDI recorders, four phrase pads, and reproduced sound of acoustic instruments, such as guitars, drums, basses, brass, wind instruments, string ensembles. The CT-X3000 MSRP is $419.99 and the CT-X5000 $799.99.

This follow up to the CT-X700 and CT-X800 series began shipping in mid-May, and early responses have been positive.

Mike Martin, general manager of Marketing for Casio’s EMI division says, “They sold out quickly. As a matter of fact, we over sold them, and that’s always a good way to start a new product shipment,” and as Stephen Schmidt, vice president of Casio’s EMI division adds, with a chuckle, “It’s a blessing and a curse.” Scurrying to ship more product is, for the most part, a nice problem for any company to have.

Typically, portable keyboards are targeted at beginners, but Martin sees this keyboard differently, “Thanks to a new sound chip that we’ve built into this keyboard, the sounds are stellar. It’s a product that a beginner can grow with for many years, and we’ve seen professionals add them to their setups for rehearsals.”

From a marketing standpoint, Martin says, “Our approach was to reach a younger audience, so we utilized social media to reach those beginners interested in playing an instrument.” Casio is not alone in their approach, for any company wanting to reach a younger audience – or any audience for that matter – social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram are essential in today’s business world. Martin continues, “We took a personal approach, especially on YouTube with video bloggers, artists, and even parents. We want customers to get to know us on a personal level.” They have also added some visual spice with new designs at points of sale, which include eye-catching displays, such as red-lit shelving to match the color scheme of the CT-X product. “We wanted folks to view this latest series as modern with a new attitude and lifestyle, which we also incorporated into our social media campaign. We are very happy with the results.”

Even with the successful launch of the new CT-X series, their overall lead seller is the slant piano Privia PX-160 with a MSRP of $499.00. It’s an 88-note, weighted-action digital piano, weighing in at 25 pounds. Schmidt explains the success and popularity of the piano: “It can evolve from a started piano to a professional’s piano, with outstanding acoustic piano sounds. It is flexible and can be used at home or on stage.”

What drives popularity, taste, and ultimately, sales? Stephen reports that Casio has noticed a shift in the portable piano market, which he claims is mostly due to lower-priced, 88-key pianos that are non-weighted. People are stepping up to an 88-key as opposed to a basic portable, particularly on the beginner’s side. Schmidt explains, “Although it has the same form factor of a basic portable, 61-key, we’ve stepped it up by using the new AiX sound processor. We have a great R & D team, and we create these processors ourselves – we don’t farm them out. We’ve taken a portable beyond what it used to be, so now people are selecting a portable again because it’s much better than the low-end, entry-level 88-key piano products out there. You can get great features and functionality at an affordable price point.” He sees it as both stepping up their products and answering the market.

In terms of the piano market overall, it has flatlined a bit over the past few years. In Casio’s case, as with all technology products, price points are always in flux. Digitals have picked up over the past ten years and acoustic pianos have declined in the market, but Schmidt sees this decline in acoustics made up by digitals filling the void.

As with any market, trends and demand come into play in many ways. For the musical instrument market, to state the obvious, it can be music. As Schmidt puts it, “Trends and fads come and go in terms of musical tastes. For example, EDM (Electronic Dance Music), which can be contrary to musical instruments, but now rap artists and EDM artists are utilizing musical instruments in their performances. It’s kind of evolving back, just as it has throughout the years, up and down. I think kids are realizing to really play an instrument, they are going to have to learn to play, and that takes practice.”

Casio has seen this change in the causes that they support and sponsor, such as Notes for Notes, a non-profit that designs, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios at Boys and Girls Clubs around the country, with a mission to provide youth with completely free access to musical instruments, instruction, and recording. “Kids are loving the opportunity to play instruments that they otherwise wouldn’t have. There’s a resurgence there.” Schmidt also credits NAMM for their lobbying in Washington, D.C.

Looking ahead, due to the early results, Casio’s big focus this year will be the on the new CT-X models. They’re also going to focus on affordable products, but not lose sight of the high-end either, such as their Grand Hybrid Series, a collaboration with the C Bechstein Company. Schmidt says, “This is tremendous for us because in addition to remembering where we come from with our portable products, we are breaking out into a high-quality, high-level, near-acoustic digital piano – a hybrid.

It has solid wood keys and sounds developed with the C. Bechstein Company. It brings us just below and acoustic grand piano.” Martin adds, “As the acoustic piano business declines, we are able to capture that business with the Grand Hybrid because it doesn’t require the maintenance and tuning every three months that a grand piano does. With a digital instrument, you don’t have to deal with things like that.”

Reflecting and looking forward, Schmidt says, “There have been some hiccups, but I think we are seeing growth and very positive trends. I think we are poised for growth!” He jokes, “The piano business has been around for 300 years!”

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