The iconic guitar brand has increasingly looked to digital markets to strengthen its sway over a new generation of music enthusiasts. Off the back of the success of its educational content, where might they look for further growth?

Fender’s digital education

Fender joined TikTok in September 2021, and has already amassed over 1 million followers. Using a mixture of paid sponsorships with influencers and original learning material the brand has tapped a new way of engaging directly with consumers. 

Fender’s pivot to educational content is part of a long-term strategy introduced by tech expert Ethan Kaplan, Fender’s Chief Digital Officer. His big innovation has been Fender’s series of apps – most notably Fender Play, an e-learning resource with 3K+ lessons available teaching everything from how to correctly hold a guitar to how to play chart hits.

He recognised that including an educational arm of the company could produce virtually unending consumer growth, citing how 90% of those who take up the guitar give it up within the first year. As Fender’s CEO noted, if they could reduce that number by even 10% they would double their entire market.

In terms of increasing growth, Fender Play turned out to be a smart bet: when the pandemic hit, Fender offered Fender Play free for 90 days and gained nearly 800,000 first time players in a matter of weeks.


Where could Fender look next?

Post lockdown boom, Fender’s challenge is now how to continue engaging consumers who have lives outside of their homes again. CEO Andy Mooney has stated they’ll be “continuing to invest in Fender Play”. To maximise this investment, they’ll want to consider the app’s international strategy.

Fender Play only supports one language, English, despite being available in nearly fifty countries. This means non-native English speakers in countries like Spain and Mexico can only access Fender Play in their second or third language, inevitably complicating their learning experience. It’s an odd choice for a brand that have put so much thought into keeping users engaged on the platform.

To avoid losing non-native English speakers to other educational content providers, Fender will want to consider the user experience of all members of the Play app.

Fender’s potential is unrealised while they stick to just one language: the app is currently only available in countries with a decently sized English-speaking population. Market research suggests the Asia-Pacific region will dominate the Guitar market by revenue share by 2026, largely due to the growing popularity of the instrument in countries like India and China and the increase in disposable income of Chinese and Indian consumers. It's crucial Fender considers how to enter these markets if it wants to remain competitive.

The brand has said they want to support other languages in future, suggesting an awareness of the vast opportunities they’re overlooking. However, it appears future support might be limited to subtitles – a missed opportunity, given the effort and hours Fender has so far put into making its platform the market leader in quality. 

Properly localizing content for new regions can be the difference between slow decline and global success. Papercup’s own research reveals people retain 70% more information when watching dubbed content over content that isn’t localized, and 50% more than video content localized using subtitles.


Hybrid models can help Fender explore their market options

The Fender team has spent over 30,000 hours on Fender Play’s curriculum. Having put such attention into creating high-quality resources, Fender are missing a huge opportunity to adapt their high performing content for larger addressable markets.

Traditional dubbing can be time-intensive and expensive, so it makes sense the brand hasn’t yet taken the gamble with its offshoot educational content. However, as Fender’s pandemic sales have revealed, its forward-thinking, strategic innovation that will enable brands to continue increasing reach and performance. Fender’s digital team have helped locate the brand as a leader in guitar eLearning. Adopting a localization strategy for emerging guitar markets could help them maintain this position.

Utilizing hybrid human-in-the-loop machine translation provides an easy, efficient way to pilot content in new markets without the prohibitive cost of dubbing houses. Using expert human translators as a last mile quality check means companies can access fast, cost-effective and scalable results while being sure of high content quality.

After Sky News identified it’s English-only content was performing well with Spanish-speaking viewers, they used Papercup’s translation solution to repurpose content for a new Spanish Sky News Channel. The channel gained 96,000 subscribers and 26 million views within the first 12 months, opening up engagement opportunities with a new native audience. 

For companies with an e-learning catalogue like Fender’s wanting to develop their international offering, hybrid machine translation offers little investment and big reward.


The final riff

Fender’s expansion and marketing strategy is a great blueprint for brands looking to retain or grow audiences in the digital age. However, if they want to maximise their gains and continue scaling their influence, they’ll soon need to consider an international content strategy. Using a hybrid machine translation solution could help Fender pilot localization for new markets, ensuring continued growth over the coming years.