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What is in a name?

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What is in a name?

Postby G.S. Monroe » Sat Jul 20, 2013 9:30 am

I've been trying to market my guitar and dulcimer builds for some time now. And it seems that folks are very unsure about my primary tone wood, the Gulf coast Bald Cypress. I'm trying to instill truth in marketing by using that name, but so far it has been a very difficult sale for what should in all rights be a desirable world class tone wood alternative. It has me starting to consider using another name for the stuff. It has clearly been a practice in the industry for many years with all of this tone wood's close cousins... Lawson's Cypress is marketed as Port Oxford Cedar, and the Canadian Cypress is marketed as Alaskan Yellow Cedar. Neither one is a true cedar, and yet what is in a name?
As I seem to be the only builder of instruments using Gulf Cypress that I have managed to find, then maybe I'm doing it wrong...
Should I be using some other name? Southern Cedar perhaps? I honestly would like some input here...
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Sat Jul 20, 2013 12:07 pm

How about "swamp cedar". That's 2 recognizable tonewoods in one.
Also has the benefit of alliteration.
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby G.S. Monroe » Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:03 pm

Swamp Cedar is a completely different tree, and unmistakable compared to the cypress.
It is far more fibrous, and more like a fur tree than a hardwood.
I'm not wanting to misrepresent the wood I'm using as being another kind of wood, just trying to be more market friendly I guess.
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:08 pm

Oh. I didn't know that name was already taken. :P
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby Michael Lewis » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:11 am

GS, are you exclusively using this cypress, or are you also using other woods? My point is how well do instruments of another tonewood sell for you?

I would make up a more exotic name, like Bigfoot cypress, or cotton mouth cedar, 'gator wood, or . . . . ?
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:17 am

Gulf Coast Bald Cypress has a nice ring to it. You might also offer the more traditional woods so people have something to compare it to, and to let them know you are building with it out of preference and not convenience.
Roche spruce, a cross between Sitka and White, has gained a luthier following under the monaker "Lutz" . How well would it be known to the general guitar buying public, I wouldn't know. Wood marketers sometimes change the names of woods to hide their bad reputation. That's why Pau Ferro also goes by the names of Morado, Brazilian ironwood, leopardtree, Bolivian rosewood , Santos rosewood, palo santos,caviuna, and who knows what they will call it next. Nice wood, if you are not allergic to it, as many are.
I believe in calling a spade a spade, stick with the common name for the wood.
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby Warren May » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:43 am

Are you targeting to Mountain Dulcimer players? If so, that's a small market I would think and they tend to be more traditionalists and, so, the advice to make them from "traditional" woods by Clay is on target. That said, some of the woods used for tops aren't from the mountains and definitely not traditional but they sell. Ed Presnell's might sell for a lot more because of the artisan name he has built.

Being in Florida, are you selling at craft shows or just internet sales? On your internet site, you don't seem to have sound clips and the ones you do have on youtube don't showcase the instruments well. You are a good builder but find someone to endorse your instrument and provide the sound clips. Some of your posts of you playing don't do the instrument justice but the ones of the Open Mike night show your thinline guitar's character. They also show the cypress has a "swampy" sound, a little thin but that's great for some blues tunes as one of the guys shows.

I do think, G.S., that your strum sticks are where the Florida market is, personally. Your videos show they have a great "swampy" tonality that comes through with a bluesy twang. Selling the wood as "swamp cypress" will work to the right market. Orlando visitors will take a little Florida back with them if the price is right. The strum stick, banjo sticks or cigar box type guitars with the 22 fret diatonic you are making would sell for you better than the mountain dulcimer, I think. These showcase the sound. Add a fully chromatic fretboard and call it a travel guitar, built for the swamps.

"Reclaimed swamp cypress" would be your marketing gimmick. Create a local legend about Florida swamp instruments. Stop being defensive about cypress as a tonewood and go with what it is. The swamp sound would be a great hook and dulcimers will probably be hard to sell whereas the "strum stick" instruments will be novel if you create a market for them. I've seen a lot of major players like Paul McCartney using cigar box guitars lately but dulcimers not so much. Ride the current popularity.
Last edited by Warren May on Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby G.S. Monroe » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:47 am

Ok, I guess I could build some instruments from other woods.
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Re: What is in a name?

Postby David King » Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:43 pm

I always knew the wood as swamp cypress. It was once terribly popular as fine interior paneling to the extent that it almost went extinct. I'd think that narrative alone might give it cachet.
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