Fender Celebrates Iconic Model's 70th Anniversary With 'The Year Of The Strat'

Close your eyes and imagine the silhouette of an electric guitar. More likely than not, you’re picturing a Fender Stratocaster. That’s how Fender CMO Evan Jones described the ubiquity of the brand’s iconic model, first launched in 1954, as Fender launches a campaign celebrating its 70th anniversary. It’s a bold statement, but the rare case when such a claim is not hyperbole.

“The Stratocaster in many ways is really the embodiment of the Fender brand,” Jones told Marketing Daily, citing its versatility and adoption by a wide variety of artists across an array of genres.

The Stratocaster became synonymous with multiple decades of rock performances, with Buddy Holly introducing the guitar to a national audience on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1957; Bob Dylan shocking folk audiences by “going electric” with a 1964 Sunburst Stratocaster at the Newport Folk Festival; George Harrison playing his hand-painted Stratocaster “Rocky” during The Beatles’ performance of “All You Need Is Love” on the global “Our World “broadcast in 1967; and Kurt Cobain (who mostly favored a Fender Jaguar) playing a white Stratocaster during Nirvana’s 1992 MTV VMAs performance.



The player arguably most responsible for the instrument’s legacy, though, is Jimi Hendrix -- who famously burned his Stratocaster at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, and performed an impromptu performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” on the instrument at Woodstock in 1969.

It’s no surprise, then, that the hero film at the center of the anniversary campaign is also an homage to Hendrix. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return): Forever Ahead of Its Time” features 10 different artists playing the titular song, including Nile Rodgers, Ari O’Neal, Tom Morello, Rebecca Lovell, REI and Jimmie Vaughan.

“It started with first wanting to pay homage to one of the artists who really helped make the Stratocaster relevant early on, and that was Jimi Hendrix,” Jones explained. “We thought it was the perfect musical bed and backdrop to being able to showcase what guitar looks like today.”

To pick the players for the ad, “we were looking for a blend of legacy [artists] and legends who are instantly recognizable, and all have their own unique take, as well as some more contemporary artists who are incredibly proficient, have incredible style, and can more than do the song justice, [while making] it their own,” he said, adding it was great to see how the artists interacted on set.

Other campaign elements include an “Icons of the Strat” portrait series celebrating famous Stratocaster players like David Gilmour and Bonnie Raitt, additions to the Strat Sessions artist performance series. A “Show Us Your Strat” promotional sweepstakes will run in participating regions from April 22-June 22, calling on players to share their personal Strat stories on social channels for a chance to win one of 70 70th Anniversary Stratocasters, or the grand prize of a Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition 1954 Stratocaster.

Fender is releasing five new guitars for the milestone, including 70th Anniversary versions of its Player Stratocaster and Professional II Stratocaster models available in the iconic “true legacy color” two-tone sunburst style first introduced in 1954, along with pricier limited-edition releases.

Those releases “give us the chance to serve the best of both worlds,” he explained -- both players looking for the iconic colors in an accessible model, and those in search of “something a bit more special and limited.”

That speaks to a line Fender is trying to straddle more broadly. Jones described bringing new people into the category, while delivering more value to existing Fender players and “turning that into more long-term value propositions” through offerings like the Fender Play app and ToneMaster Pro digital effects and amp modeling station.

Another function of the “Year of the Strat” campaign is to act as a bridge.

The anniversary can “operate as not only a reminder of what makes the brand great, but also a uniter in terms of giving people across different demographics a chance to see there are other people out there who share their passion -- who may not look like them, may not sound like them, and may live in a different part of the world,” Jones said, “which we think is a fundamentally good idea for us to amplify.”

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