SAN DIEGO — Sony, which began its minimum advertised pricing (MAP) programs on television displays last fall, said the program has begun to pay dividends and will be expanded into other categories.
Mike Fasulo, Sony executive VP and chief marketing offi cer, said at a press roundtable during its annual line show, held here last week, that specialty dealers have embraced Sony MAP policies, which offer real penalties for non-compliance across a wider swath of products and model than the SURE and SSPG programs used in the past.
“Every note I’ve gotten from a specialist has been a thank you, in terms of MAP,” Fasulo said.
He said Sony just announced the expansion of the MAP program into home audio/video as well as TV and is now studying the likelihood of expanding it into the digital imaging category, as well.
“We are introducing a program on our [DI] premium products that will require an in-store demonstration,” he said.
“The specialist retailer is extremely important to me, it is extremely important to our industry, and it is going to be vital to 3D,” Fasulo said, responding to market conditions that forced the recent closing of the MyerEmco chain (See story on p. 6). “I think demonstrations are going to make a comeback and this is going to be multichannel-oriented where it is going to be Internet and brick-and-mortar.”
In part to help A/V specialty dealers, Fasulo said Sony’s TV lines are shipping three months earlier than ever this year, which should help alleviate some dealers that were left short of inventory prior to the Super Bowl period.
At the same time, Stan Glasgow, Sony Electronics president and COO, said the company is working harder at returning to the forefront of breakthrough new product innovations, pointing to 3D TV as an area where Sony is moving very aggressively to get out in front of the market quickly.
He pointed to the recently introduced Sony Dash (shipping in April at a $200 suggested retail), which is a home-based Internet entertainment device with a 7- inch LCD screen designed to access popular Internet destinations such as Facebook and the just-announced Netf lix movie-streaming service, as an example of an innovative product that will help Sony break new ground.
“[Dash] wasn’t just a dream one night. It [came from] the understanding of a lot of consumer insights, and could there be other displays in the home that made sense for consumers.” Glasgow said.
He also pointed to the recently introduced worldwide branding campaign, called “make.believe” — the first of its kind for Sony — that will help to re-establish the Sony lead as “an internal as well as an external campaign.”
Glasgow said the Sony United efforts that are marrying all of Sony’s various businesses on synergistic product launches is beginning to work “better and better.” He pointed to a promotional bundle for “one retailer” offering a TV, PS3, a game and a movie that in one day moved 12,000 units.
“It was the best bundle deal that they had ever done and that we had ever done before,” he said.
Glasgow pointed to a similar one-day bundle on a TV and a PS3 at Sony Style stores on Nov. 21 that also set a company record.
“At Sony Style stores we moved three times more TVs than the prior year,” Glasgow said. “So when you give the right deal to consumers, even in this economy, it is a positive thing,” Glasgow said.
As for the Bravia Internet Video Link community, Glasgow said Sony is “getting closer and closer to that 1 million type of user [level],” illustrating another path that Sony is helping to pioneer for the industry.
Meanwhile, Glasgow said, more and more consumers, particularly among younger generations, are leaning more heavily on “green” designed and supported products.
“I’m not saying they are willing to pay more money in that direction, but they are certainly leaning toward green and sustainability,” he said, adding that Sony continues to remain committed to developing eco-friendly products and packaging, and, in leading the industry again, has already taken back more than 25 million pounds of electronics products for recycling through its “Take Back” campaign.
As for its merchandising and marketing plans for the year, Sony is giving “much more focus at the retail [storefront] than it has done in the last couple of years,” said Fasulo, explaining that the company is adopting a more integrated marketing strategy through Internet-driven vehicles, including social networking.
In the last year, Fasulo said the company’s branding efforts have taken “a platform perspective,” designed to keep an ongoing dialogue with the consumer over a 12 to 18 month period of time.
The company’s HDNA campaign, which is an example of the new platform approach, returned “very positive metrics” for recall (which hit nearly 60 percent) and call-to-action for retail, Fasulo said.
More importantly, he pointed out, Sony’s sales increased 13 percent over the course of the HDNA campaign.
Fasulo said he expects similar or better results from the “make.believe” campaign, which will kick off in April around digital imaging, run to the summer when 3D TV will hit hard before shifting to backto- school in the fall, and conclude with 3D and gifts for the holiday season.
Sony also announced that it will expand its relationship with pop star Justin Timberlake by becoming the title sponsor of the William Rast Fashion Show, which he co-owns, in New York.
“We are getting a little more expansive with our relationships on our sponsorships, because it matters to the consumer,” Fasulo said. “It also gives us the opportunity to speak with the different segments.”
Fasulo said Sony plans to advertise its leadership in 3D this summer by playing up what Sony called its multiple roles from the “lens to the living room.”
From the lens perspective, Sony will be producing 3D movies through Sony Pictures and is delivering 3D production equipment for broadcasters.
Sony will ship its 3D televisions this summer in tandem with the rollout of the 3D portion of its ad campaign.
Fasulo cautioned: “I do not believe this is the year for gangbuster sales of 3D anything — Maybe movies, like ‘Avatar,’ but I do see this as the year for great education, and it is also the reason for people to buy today. You will see with our various models of televisions — we have LED, we have IP connectivity and an additional feature we have is 3D, So there is no reason for the consumer to wait to buy their television today. That is the approach we are going to take with our lineup this year — build that excitement and build that platform for a bigger business moving forward.”
Fasulo said Sony started 3D TV demonstrations at Sony Style stores shortly after CES, and those have given the company good feedback that will help Sony modify its approaches in both Sony Style locations and with its retail partners.
Fasulo said 3D on television is a new concept to most consumers, and it is “driving excitement.”
As for merchandising 3D, Fasulo said Sony has developed a series of touchpanel kiosk displays that enable customers to switch between 2D and 3D content demonstrations on attached TV sets to present a full experience of what the technologies offer, while helping educate consumers to the new format.
Sony is also sending trainers into the fi eld to teach retail partners about the new 3D products and benefi ts as well as share the best sales approaches to handle it.