New York - Panasonic launched its six-week, 15-city Experience Amazing Tour for consumers around the country and a $100 million ad campaign for its Viera and Lumix lines.
The tour is designed to give consumers an up-close look at its 2011 lineup of FullHD 3D Viera TVs, Viera Connect IPTX and range of interactive apps, at a press event in Grand Central Station's Vanderbilt Hall, here.
Also highlighted during the tour will be Panasonic's 3D Blu-ray Disc players, 3D active-shutter eyewear, Lumix 3D camcorders and digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, and the Viera Connect IPTV apps for large-panel HDTVs. The company hopes to duplicate the success of its similar tour in December 2010 that attracted 55,000, said Jim Sanduski, sales VP.
Sanduski said the goal of the tour is to show "consumers and local media our 2011 line and enable core [retail] salespeople to be trained" by Panasonic staff during the events.
Three separate teams are visiting the 15 cities at the same time; for instance, the Grand Central event continues until tomorrow, with Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y., April 7-10. Typical visits per market are five days. Other major cities on the tour include Chicago (April 4-8); Los Angeles (April 4-10); Boston, Detroit and Phoenix (April 13-18); Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Francisco (April 20-23); Washington (April 26-30); Dallas and Seattle (April 27-May 1); Atlanta and Houston (May 4-8); and Miami (May 11-15).
As part of the tour, Panasonic will have promotions with retailers within a 5- to 10-mile radius of each site, according to Vic Carlson, consumer marketing group VP.
"Consumers will receive a list of retailers and promotions when they leave [each tour location]. Regional retailers, not just big-box chains, will be participating," Carlson said.
Panasonic is also offering 3,000 interactive end caps to regional and national retailers that can demonstrate the following features in both 2D and 3D: Viera Plasma Advantage, Upgrade to HTIB, Experience 3D, Capture Own 3D, Viera Connect and Skype.
Carlson said the six videos focus on how consumers want to experience content, rather than just the hardware.
On the advertising side, the Viera ads begin today while the Lumix ads kick off "in the next couple of weeks," Carlson said.
The emphasis of the campaign is on these sub-brands, and in the past year the strategy has worked.
Since a year ago, unaided consumer brand recognition of Viera and Lumix is up dramatically. Unaided brand recognition of Viera is up nine times and Lumix is up 12 times from a year ago, Carlson reported.
As part of the program, "Avatar" will continue to be a Panasonic exclusive through February 2012 and be "our focus" vs. other possible movie deals, Sanduski noted.
TV and web advertising will be part of the program, as will the second year of sponsorship of the U.S. Tennis Open in New York in August and September, set to be broadcast in 3D. There will also be a holiday tour.
Sanduski also reviewed Panasonic introductions made at International CES and the overall marketplace. He said that 20 percent of TV sales last year were connected TVs while 2 percent were 3D. Panasonic predicted that by 2015, 70 percent will be connected TVs and 40 percent will be 3D, assuming that some sets will only have 3D or connected TV features.
Sanduski highlighted the Viera Connect NHL, NBA and MLB apps that were customized for Panasonic sets, reminding everyone that the platform is for TVs this year vs. Blu-ray decks, based on the processing power and cost to do it, and will include most social networking sites, Skype, video game streaming, health and fitness programming, and sports.
"There will also be a Viera Market capability to customize the consumer experience and enable them to buy accessories, video game controllers and the like," he noted.
On entry-level plasma and LCD TVs in the 2011 line, Panasonic's Easy IPTV will be featured, which is similar to the company's prior Viera Cast, a closed, pre-approved selection of online apps.
Separately, Sanduski commented on recent events in Japan, saying that the industry "could see some supply problems" in the near future and confirmed that "digital cameras [supplies] have been affected."
He confirmed that Panasonic TV operations that are on the west coast of Japan and assembled outside of the country have not been affected. But he voiced the concern of others that unexpected shortages of key components may occur, which could hurt the supply chain.