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Sony Plans Strong Brand Campaign During 2nd Half

Sony Electronics is aggressively marketing the company’s brand name and technologies through a consumer ad effort and its own retail stores for the balance of this fiscal year, even as it moves its company headquarters to San Diego.

Dick Komiyama, president/chief operating officer, and Mark Viken, senior VP of corporate marketing for Sony Electronics, discussed these issues and others during their recent press roundtable, at the Sony Building, here. (See TWICE, July 12, p. 5 for related story.)

As previously reported, Viken claimed that Sony’s consumer ad campaign for the fiscal year ending March 31 next year will be double what it was for the previous year, but did not provide a dollar amount. The approach will feature the tag line, “Sony … Like No Other,” for all Sony divisions. Viken added that the phrase highlights what one of Sony’s founders, Masaru Ibuka, saw as the company’s mission, to “provide unique products … and marketing.”

In most of Sony’s key categories, VAIO, WEGA and digital imaging, the ads will be targeting customers from 25 to 54 years old, while the portable electronics effort will focus on 18- to 24-year-olds, he said.

On the retail side, the Sony Style Fashion Retail Stores are being opened “with a solutions approach,” Komiyama said, and show consumers “all of the products that we have available and how they can work together.” The stores, which will feature CE, IT, PlayStation and Sony movies all in one place, are currently open in Palo Alto, Costa Mesa and Beverly Hills in California, as well as Boston and Houston.

“We plan to open ten more stores this fiscal year, in malls which are in the top ten U.S. markets,” Komiyama said. Each store would be 4,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet.

When asked how these locations will affect local and national retailers, he said, “These are certainly not just showrooms, but we do support local dealers. These locations [can be] used to test run product, test marketing plans and training personnel.” Komiyama added, “This is a pilot program where there will be a lot of ways to measure success.” He noted that each store might not have every Sony product available and that Sony personnel will “recommend they go to a local retailer if we don’t have a specific product.”

Komiyama was also asked questions about MP3, Super Audio CD, the Qualia brand and HDTV during the press conference.

Concerning MP3 and Super Audio CD, Komiyama was asked why Sony has been reluctant to embrace MP3. He said that with Super Audio CD, “We have initiated the format to keep top audio quality… and many have backed the format. We want to maintain it as a top technology. But we realize that there is a universal product available [MP3] and we are watching it closely.”

He was also asked about the Qualia line and why HDTV has not been introduced via this brand. Komiyama countered, “We did introduce CRT-based product in Japan, but in this category we have the SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) format, and we believe that it is top quality. Qualia has to be innovative, and in discussing this, the Qualia committee in Japan decides what will be done. Remember, the Qualia line is not a mass [distributed] line.”