Jostled momentarily by the departures of some key marketing executives, delays in the transition to a new advanced LCD-TV line and hiccups emerging from a major systems change, Sony's Home Products Division is back on course and gunning to recapture top market-share positions using a new consumer focus.
That was the assessment of Randy Waynick, Sony home products division (HPD) marketing senior VP, who recently visited TWICE's offices for an exclusive interview recapping the first 100 days in his new position.
Waynick replaced Michael Fidler, who left Sony to become CEO of cable technology company Digeo. Waynick is a 21-year veteran of Sony, who last served as senior sales VP, directly handling many of the company's largest retail accounts.
His first task coming in was to implement chairman Howard Stringer's new marching orders to make consumers' needs and desires Sony's top priority in product and program development.
“Howard Stringer's refocusing of the company has created a new awareness competitively of where things need to go,” Waynick said.
In an effort to clarify what Sony customer's want, Waynick said the HPD will rely heavily on consumer focus groups and panels while putting together next year's model line. The team will also gather consumer feedback from dealers, and react more quickly to changes in the market, he vowed.
“We've used focus groups in the past, but they have been used more to substantiate what's down the pipe,” Waynick said. “Launching the BRAVIA LCD-TV line was actually a great first step, because that wasn't a case where we created a product first and then went out to make a market for it.”
Waynick said in the first few weeks following the BRAVIA launch, Sony's LCD-TV market share shot to the top of the category, after falling as low as No. 11 in one second-quarter LCD brand share ranking.
He said the BRAVIA impact was the combined result of strong picture performance, an unusually aggressive advertising campaign (for Sony) and a new design emphasis “to not only make it pretty, but make it fit into the function of the house.” The strategy has played especially well with women, Waynick said.
Sony's second-quarter stutter steps also resulted from an unusual slowness in transitioning to the new line, a situation he blamed in part on the company going through a major systems change.
“We went to SAP,” Waynick said. “We actually front-loaded some the business during the first quarter. In the second quarter there was a real bottleneck in the flow of product, in order processing and shipping.”
Waynick acknowledged that Sony also took some time to get over the numerous personnel changes that followed the move from Park Ridge, N.J., to San Diego. He said he has been evangelizing to his team and retailers that Sony is an enduring force.
To fill some of the gaps, Waynick said HPD was restructured, moving some positions around and adding two new executives to the team.
Tom Evans, a former Sony executive who left the company a year and a half ago, returns as television marketing VP, replacing Greg Gudorf. He had been VP of a media distribution company and also spent time as marketing VP for SAP Global Marketing. He spent 13 years with Sony, last serving as electronics media and application solutions division senior VP.
Waynick said Evans will “give us the authority and marketing expertise both from inside and outside of Sony.”
Alex Magin was brought in from Motorola as HPD marketing director to “show us the way the rest of the big-brands market, and apply core marketing disciplines and processes to the way we roll out,” Waynick said. Magin oversees the BRAVIA launch and building the brand.
In addition, Waynick moved Sony veteran Ted Johnson from the digital platforms division operations program manager post to the newly created global integrated supply chain senior manager position to focus specifically on supply chain management issues. The post is designed to free up other managers to focus on core marketing.
Waynick said that supply chain management is not simply about getting a product off the assembly line and right onto a dealer's floor.
“If you really optimize the supply chain, it might be a situation where you take on additional cost, hold inventory and flow it to accounts that don't have the financial resources to stock it, because they don't have the showroom floor or warehouse space,” he said.
The new structure was ultimately designed to help Sony's communication between retailers. One of the criticisms from retailers has been that Sony's slow. And I think that is valid. We are working very hard to be both fast and smart.”
As for the company's controversial retail distribution strategy, Waynick said Sony will continue to follow consumer and commercial AV/IT sales president Stan Glasgow's “customer strategy vs. channel strategy” directive.
“All the data indicates that customers are shopping multiple channels and there is channel blur,” Waynick said “It was always hard using the one unanimous voice of a buying group to figure out what the customers' needs are. It was very difficult to develop the best strategies for the individual customers in the groups.”
Sony is doing more to support dealers by fine-tuning products to their markets, while stepping up sales training and promotional efforts. As an example, Sony and Sound & Vision Magazine recently began a 12-city HDTV informational seminar tour for consumers using key Sony dealers.
Waynick said he hopes the outreach will help to counter negative press that has hammered Sony for recent financial performances and market failures, despite the fact that the company has continuously led most of the markets in which it competes.
“We had a great year last year,” Waynick said. “Thirty percent of every dollar spent on TV was spent on Sony. But if you read a lot of the press, it was all about how we're getting killed in color TV. Look at our microdisplay [43 percent share] and LCD [34.7 percent in weekly share at press time] share, and we have 25 percent share in the picture tube business.”