Celebrating his first complete year as Sony Home Products Division (HPD) marketing senior VP, Randy Waynick said the company has come a long way in a short amount of time.
“It's been an interesting year,” Waynick said. “Sony reasserted
its leadership in the total CE space, and a year ago that was a much different situation. We were trying to launch BRAVIA then, we had some delays on products and Sony was taking a beating in the press and in our market share.”
In the 12-month period, Waynick said Sony has sustained dominant leadership positions pretty much across the board in all television categories, encompassing market share, dollar volume and product innovation.
Waynick attributed the turnaround to refocusing “on core fundamentals that make Sony the brand that it is — a brand that resonates with consumers and retailers.”
Sony's strengths in innovation and design, he said, are largely responsible for consumers opting to pay more for Sony products to get the level of quality and sophistication that traditionally has been associated by consumers with Sony products.
“When you look at the 40W-inch XBR [LCD TV], we introduced a 25 to 30 percent premium over everybody else, and it's been the No. 1 selling television set all year long,” Waynick said. “In home audio — a declining market — we've actually gained share in virtually every category and took over No. 1 market share in home theater in a box, and for several weeks the Sony Dream System beat the leading competitor that has owned that market for the last several year.”
Key to driving the successes in the television categories were the launches of the new BRAVIA and SXRD sub brands, Waynick noted.
“Both of those brands responded to what consumers really wanted and needed,” Waynick said, pointing to Sony's greater reliance on consumer focus studies before developing and launching new product initiatives. “BRAVIA was the first TV designed for men and women.”
Consumer studies have resulted in a variety of new enhancements to TV designs, including a series of flat-panel TVs with interchangeable bezel trim pieces, giving home designers the ability to match the color of the TV with the room décor.
“We haven't even started shipping that yet, but we have had substantial pre-sales orders — sight unseen,” Waynick observed.
From a logistical standpoint, Waynick said he was able bring a different perspective into the marketing organization, having worked for years directly with key accounts on Sony's sales team. He made a number of adjustments to respond better to dealer needs.
“I am not completely satisfied yet, there is a lot more that we want to do, but we have to become more market responsive in product planning and design,” he offered. “We've made progress. This year alone, we've accelerated our product launch and development by 60 days. That's pretty dramatic when you are working a year in advance. It's allowed us to work much closer with retailers in communicating what we need to do to merchandise the product, identify the advertising message and train sales people.”
Central to Sony's advertising message going forward this year will be its “Full 1080,” slogan, which among other things will play up the benefits of both Sony's expanded 1,080p TV assortment and its forthcoming Blu-ray Disc products. The theme will also extend into other businesses and categories of the Sony family, he added.
Waynick said the home products division participates in weekly meetings with Sony's studio people, hardware people and engineers on the campaign.
Waynick said he has “some degree of influence” on the quality of the production and encoding of Sony Pictures' Blu-ray titles, adding that by the time Sony's player is ready to ship both the software and hardware will be ready to shine.
The HD team, Waynick said, was designed to work cohesively across all categories within the Sony organization to promote and market the HDTV message and to respond to the concerns of dealers and consumers.
For example, following recent reports of stutter steps with the launch of the first Blu-ray Disc player and titles, Waynick said Sony will not rush its product to market too soon.
“When we ship our product this fall, we are not going to cut any corners on QC, design or applications,” Waynick said. “We remain on target, and when it arrives it will be a product that delights the customers, not disappoints.”
Sony will have seven 1,080p capable TV sets in the market this fall, Waynick said, and the company is actively working with retailers on the best way to merchandise the concept.
Sony is “securing HD generators so we can show people the value of 1080p, whether they are watching Blu-ray content or even 1080 source material from their digital camera,” Waynick said.
He said the company also fancies itself “an objective advisor to consumers” on the high-definition TV story, adding that it spent heavily on in-store educational events to communicate the nuances of the technology to confused potential purchasers.
This year Sony is planning over 2,000 additional in-store events to help educate sales people and consumers on the tangible benefits of HDTV and make “1,080p more than just a numbers story,” he said.
Despite the new emphasis on the 1,080p message from Sony and its competitors this fall, Waynick believes the entire family of HDTV products will benefit. Acknowledging that the efforts will drive a greater degree of demand for 1,080p products than lower resolution items, Waynick said that Sony's 720p products will continue to sell heavy volumes, if at slightly lower growth percentages.
“We expect 1,080p to be a big portion of our business this year, and a big portion of the industry's business,” Waynick said.
Heading into CEDIA Expo, Waynick said Sony looks to continue its aggressive pursuit of the builder and custom-installer markets, noting that investments made in Sony's Wall Station and whole house distribution technologies are starting to pay dividends.
This year, Waynick predicts to be very strong again in the projector business, with improved SXRD models designed for install operations.