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Panasonic Using 3D To Promote Its Brand

1/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS — Satisfied in relative terms with 3D
adoption in 2010, Panasonic will aggressively use
the format this year to promote the brand.

That was one of the topics Joe Taylor, chairman/
CEO of Panasonic Corporation of America, and
Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic Consumer
Electronics, discussed with TWICE during International
CES.

When asked if Panasonic was satisfied with 3D
TV’s sales performance in 2010, Taylor quipped,
“We would be disappointed if we sold five times
the amount we sold last year.”

But he quickly added, “Some said 3D had a lower
adoption rate than other new technologies. In a
practical sense, in the nine months 3D was available
last year, more sets were sold than in the first six
years of HDTV.”

Taylor said, “More content would help. That’s why
we partnered with DirecTV last year on 3D. Discovery
will be created 200 more hours of new content.
Our expectation is that there will be a lot more programming
available. Three forms of content drives
3D in this order: movies, and Hollywood is working
on more and more releases; gaming, which is a little
simpler to produce than movies; and sports.”

Kitajima noted that last March the company introduced
the first 3D TV at retail but, hindsight being
20/20, they should have done a few things differently.

“We thought consumers would understand 3D.
Some thought you could only watch 3D and not 2D
programming. Consumers didn’t understand why
they had to pay extra for 3D Blu-ray titles vs. standard
Blu-ray, DVD or downloads. Our communication was not good enough initially.”

But he noted that once demonstrations were held in
stores, more content became available, and more consumers
saw it, “people saw the value in the technology.”

By the fall when Panasonic sold bundles with “Avatar”
and 3D glasses, Kitajima said, “3D became a lot bigger
part of our business” and helped Panasonic generate
double-digit overall TV sales gains by the end of 2010.
And he noted that 3D camcorders and cameras will
help TV sales in 2011. “Last year we introduced pro and
consumer 3D camcorders,” and training on the pro side
helped sales there. On the consumer side its unit debuted
in early October “at a $1,300 retail price. We sold
over 4,000. They may all be early adopters but we have
expanded the line for 2011” with the lowest street prices
going well less than $1,000.

“All the channel partners we are talking to are talking
about 3D. It can help the camcorder business that has
been competing against smartphones that provide 2D
standard-definition images,” he noted.

Taylor said Panasonic’s strategy for 3D was to claim it
as its own to build its brand image in the U.S.

“We are a 100-year-old $100 billion company and one
of the world’s technology leaders with more patents applied
and granted than anyone. If you said Intel is a tech
leader to a consumer, they’d say sure. Panasonic? They
would question it.”

Taylor said bluntly, “We are a world-class manufacturing
and technology company. But in marketing we are
poor. We must change the brand image in the U.S.”

Panasonic has been using 3D to do just that. “We
want to get credit for building and designing the best
TVs and the best 3D TV in the marketplace.”

He noted that at International CES in 2009, “we said
we would have 3D TV in 2010 and we were laughed at.
Last year’s show we said we would be at retail and partner
with DirecTV.”

Taylor said with 3D “Panasonic took a leadership role.
We got great buzz and great consumer recognition.”

By the end of the year the company got sidetracked
“in just moving boxes,” in Taylor’s words. “But we did
sponsor the U.S. Open Tennis tournament and Major
League Baseball. We must do a better way of sustaining
our initial marketing effort.”

What Taylor wants Panasonic to do this year is promote
“four tent-pole events like the U.S. Open to spotlight
3D, promote content and promote our brand.”

When asked if the popularity of smartphones and tablet
PCs will take over the top spot in CE from TVs, Taylor said,
“I don’t think ancillary devices will replace the screen that
is the centerpiece of the home. These devices want to tap
into the entertainment you can see on the bigger screen.
What we need to do to make it easier for consumers to
move content around the home and in these devices and
make it simple, without memorizing a product guide.”

When asked if Panasonic is interested in introducing
a tablet PC, Taylor candidly said, “We care about tablets
and smartphones, but we’re behind a lot of catching up
to do.”

He said that Panasonic does have a tablet in its B to B
Toughbook PC line, “but the sales for that market is not
overwhelming.”

Taylor did stress, “It is absolutely important for us to have
a tablet” for the consumer market, and added, “I wouldn’t
be surprised if we would have one at next year’s CES.” As
for whether it will feature 3D: “It is too early to say.”

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