Casio’s branding has certainly worked over the years. Few, if any, from Okinawa to Orlando, have never heard of the company. One of Casio’s main goals is to continue contributing to people’s lives. A main cog contributing to this goal is Mike Martin, general manager of marketing for New Jersey-based Casio USA’s Electronic Music Instruments division. We ask Martin plenty, including Casio’s goals at this month’s Summer NAMM and how the company differentiates itself in a highly competitive market.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Please tell us about your background, family and career, including your time at Casio.
Mike Martin: Music has always been an important part of my life. I began taking piano lessons when I was in the third grade. My passion for music, specifically music technology, started at a young age. By the time I was 16, I learned that by working in a music store, I could surround myself with instruments and music technology. Even through my college years, if I wasn’t in a classroom, I was in the music store. This led to a career on the other side of the music industry, working for companies manufacturing and distributing instruments and other music equipment. This has included music software, professional audio, guitars and keyboard products, of course. This July marks my 11th anniversary at Casio. Family-wise, I’ve been happily married for 20 years and have a 19-year-old son who’s currently studying acting in New York City.
The Retailer: Why did you initially want to join Casio?
Martin: I had been at a company that closed most of its U.S. operations during the recession of 2008. As a result, I found myself job hunting and was thrilled to find an opportunity at Casio.
The Retailer: Last year was strong, and 2019 seems solid thus far for the MI industry overall. How has it been for Casio? Are you still seeing strength?
Martin: We’re definitely very pleased with our 2018 results, and 2019 is looking to be a record year for our company. Winter NAMM in particular was a very successful show for Casio, with the launch of our latest Privia digital pianos.
The Retailer: There have been some economic indicators that could be predicting tougher times, economically speaking, in the future. How do you prepare for that as a manufacturer, whether it happens or not?
Martin: While no one can predict the future, we work to be prepared for a variety of economic scenarios. It is something we’re constantly evaluating and adjusting our strategies for. We know we won’t be the only company in the industry facing challenges this year, and we work diligently to be able to react in a timely fashion with the most well-thought-out plan possible.
The Retailer: You are exhibiting at Summer NAMM this month and have made a commitment to the show. Please tell us why you like exhibiting in Nashville and what you hope to accomplish at the show.
Martin: We always enjoy Summer NAMM, as it’s a great opportunity for us to connect with our retailers. Summer NAMM, to be perfectly frank, is the best opportunity for us and our partner retailers to work together to plan for the holiday selling season. We also enjoy the show because the local Nashville talent is able to come in and play our latest offerings.
The Retailer: Can you tell us about the products you will be featuring at this month’s show and give us some details about them?
Martin: At Summer NAMM this year, Casio is relaunching its popular CasioTone keyboards. Our entry into the music business 39 years ago was with the first CasioTone portable keyboard. Like the transformation that our Privia pianos went through this year, the new CasioTone CT-S series keyboards highlight our latest innovations in the category. In addition to sounding and playing great, the design of the CT-S series has a fresh, slim, modern look.
The Retailer: Casio launched some unique products at The NAMM Show in January as well, as you previously mentioned. Can you tell us how they are doing and what feedback you have received thus far?
Martin: Overall, we are very pleased with the launch of the Privia PX-S series of digital pianos. In addition to our recent award wins, we’re getting great feedback from dealers and artists alike on Casio’s fresh approach to the category. The new Privia PX-series offers an incredible slim and elegant design, new keyboard action and the company’s latest sound technology.
The Retailer: Following Summer NAMM, what goals does Casio have for the rest of 2019 and for the near future?
Martin: Casio is always exploring new avenues to strengthen its business. This year, we have a focus on the music-education market. From our portable keyboards and Privia PX-S series, to our fl agship Grand Hybrid pianos, Casio has instruments and technology that are ideal for schools and music education. We’re attending more music education events, making more direct contact with schools and connecting them with Casio retailers nationwide.
The Retailer: Casio is in a competitive market. How do you keep differentiating yourself?
Martin: I think the Privia PX-S series is the perfect example of how Casio has chosen to be different. When Casio created the first Privia pianos over 15 years ago, the company set a new standard for price, performance and portability in the digital piano category. Fast forward to recent years, everything in the category began to look the same. Casio’s latest PX-S series offers a radical redesign, not only taking performance portability to a new level, but the modern, fresh design is also a great fit for a variety of lifestyles.
The Retailer: In our December issue, Stephen Schmidt, vice president, Casio’s Electronic Musical Instruments division, mentioned he was excited to see David Sanborn with Casio artist Steve Weingart in Miami. Did you also see the show, and was it everything you hoped for? What’s next on your must-see concert list?
Martin: I was lucky enough to see Steve Weingart perform a few times last year, including another show with guitarist Steve Lukather in New York City. He’s such an amazing player, and we’re thrilled to have him as part of the Casio family. On my wish list this year is Kansas. They’re currently touring with long-time Casio artist Tom Brislin, who is using a Privia PX-S3000 piano for the opening set of the show.