Thursday, December 14, 2017

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" advertisement, Electronic Musician 1987

Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk sequencer software "IBM PC/XT/AT OWNERS!!!" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from the top-right corner of page 13 in the August 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Hey there! This is blog post #2 of my walk down Cakewalk memory lane. If you haven't read the first one... you may want to do that now. Or don't.

If you recall from my previous post, Twelve Tone Systems' first advertisement (right) had run from April through June 1987. If you had picked up that July issue and noticed it missing, you might have thought that was the end of Cakewalk.

But, as you are no doubt aware, it definitely wasn't. And after a brief one month hiatus, this second Cakewalk ad appeared in the August issue and continued to run for four consecutive months through to November 1987.

From that first small advertisement's humble beginnings, Twelve Tone Systems began picking up users a few at a time. But that costs money and a new product can always use a bit of earned media (in other words, free) to help get their legs running in the right direction.

Electronic Musician included a small write-up in its June 1987 What's New section:
"Cakewalk ($150.00), a MIDI recorder/editor for the IBM PC/XT/AT (256K memory and Roland MPU-401 required), features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked by ear and further refined using Event Filter criteria. A demo disk is available for $10. Twelve Tone Systems. PO Box 226, Watertown, MA, 02272 617/924-7937."
And although Keyboard magazine had yet to publish an ad for Cakewalk, they also gave their readers a taste of Cakewalk within their June 1987 Spec Sheet page:
"Cakewalk MIDI recorder/editor. Twelve Tone Systems' Cakewalk software features 256 tracks of unlimited length, a context-sensitive, on-line help system, and easy pull-down menu interface, a detailed Event View for editing MIDI parameters, and extensive global editing commands. Edit regions can be marked during playback and refined using Event Filter criteria. Cakewalk runs with an IBM compatible with at least 256K, a Roland MPU-104, and at least one MIDI instrument. $150.00. Twelve Tone Systems, Box 226, Watertown, MA 02272."
It's interesting to see just how similar these two little write-ups are. And I don't think that's a coincidence. I'm guessing someone at Cakewalk trotted out a small news release or product announcement. It's every marketing and PR person's dream that you will send out an announcement and the over-worked writers and editors will use your direct wording. Based on the fact these two write-ups are so identical, I'm guessing it worked for the most part. :)

One thing that I did notice was missing, both from this second ad and from these magazine product write-ups, is Twelve Tone Systems' buzzwords that was so boldly... er... bolded in their first ad:  "Aural Editing". They used it to describe how editing regions could be marked by ear during playback. Well, it looks like they decided to drop the term already (but not the feature).  Such is the life of buzzwords. Boooooo!

As for the second advertisement itself, Twelve Tone Systems decided to enlarge the ad space from 1/6-page to 1/4-page, and this was a good decision on their part. Most particularly because it allowed the fun, laid-back personality of the company to shine through.

Phrases like...
"This hot sequencing software gives you lots of power for not much coin." 
"You are guided through all this power by a nifty user-interface..." 
"Or dip into over 100 pages of the clearest documentation you've ever not had to read."  
"Cakewalk is all yours for just $150. Of course, if paying $500 for Cakewalk will make you feel better, we'll play along."
 That's just good branding. I'm reading it 30 years later and it still sounds like Cakewalk to me.

There is one thing I'm still missing. Although the company has now defined their personality, they are still in desperate need of a logo.  But they do have everyone's attention... and so its time for the next step.

Which I'll get to in the next blog post.

Update: The third blog post is now live!

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