Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

Sony Mobile looks back to former glories in 'challenger' ad

Sony Mobile is using the launch of its Xperia Z smartphone to reminisce on some of its most famous products - such as the Walkman and camcorder - through marketing as it looks to bring its “One Sony” strategy to life in the eyes of consumers.

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The company has already positioned the handset as “the best of Sony in a phone” in press and outdoor advertising to encourage pre-registrations but this will be amplified through further above the line activity launching 28 February.

Sony hopes by communicating features such as its one-touch connectivity with other electronics devices such as TVs and speakers, PlayStation apps and movies and music content, consumers will become more aware the company also offers smartphones.

Sony Mobile UK, Ireland and Netherlands marketing director Catherine Cherry told Marketing Week she hopes the forthcoming marketing campaign for the smartphone will make consumers “stop and really consider” Sony as a smartphone brand.

She added: “Our position in the market is that we are still a relatively small player so we see ourselves as a challenger brand - which is [an odd] juxtaposition with Sony, which is this huge global brand. One of our challenges is that people don’t know Sony as a smartphone brand so we will be looking to grow brand awareness and specifically spontaneous brand awareness.”

It will track spontaneous brand awareness, preference and Facebook and Twitter uplift via its research partners, which it hopes will indicate an interest in the brand and loyalty to Sony Mobile.

The company is doubling its marketing spend year on year for the campaign as it looks to make “big bangs” to cut through against the two dominant brands in the market: Apple and Samsung.

At the heart of the activity sits a TV ad, created by McCann Erickson, which rolls back the years to feature the Walkman, camcorder and touches on previous advertising such as its famous Sony Bravia bouncing balls spot in a bid to make consumers feel they are getting the best of Sony from the new smartphone.

Sony embarked on its “One Sony” turnaround plan in April last year, realigning its business around its core mobile, games consoles and digital imaging divisions and shedding some 10,000 jobs as it looked to reverse successive quarters of flagging revenue.

As a result Sony Mobile’s CMO Steve Walker stepped down after 17 years as the company accelerated its strategy to integrate its mobile division more closely with the wider organisation.

Cherry says since becoming “One Sony” there has been a “gear shift” in the way different divisions in the company collaborate to work on marketing pushes.

She adds: “Our CEO [Kazuo Hirai] is really driving the important One Sony strategy around our three focus areas. There’s been a lot of work on how we deliver that, which does take time and is why we did this campaign looking back retrospectively now rather than a year ago when we first announced the strategy.”

Cherry says the company is not chasing a particular audience, but the Xperia Z does veer towards the top end of the market.

She adds: “The traditional segmentation model is quite limiting. We want lots of segments to be interested for different reasons, such as bring your own device or photographers.”

Ben Wood, mobile and wireless analyst at CCS Insight, says Sony Mobile will benefit from other product advertising from the company, which has a benefit against pureplay mobile manufacturers.

But he adds: “Let’s not be naive: it’s an incredibly competitive market. Samsung [also not a pure play phone maker] is outgunning rivals in terms of marketing spend. But if you have a halo product at the top it acts as a draw and a brand signal and endorsement for others in your portfolio…it then needs to fill out the [smartphone range] with different products from different price points.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Sad maybe, but Sony is a has-been and that is now reflected in their marketing. If all they can talk about is past triumphs, then presumably they have nothing exiting to say about their mobile range or support. If that is not competitive, then they need to go back and work on their product propositions rather than supporting weak products with expensive campaigns. It is fairly obvious that Catherine's hands are tied from the comments she has made, but she probably won't have any say in product development.
    Pure mobile or not is not the issue, as Samsung have proved. That is what must really grate on Sony- an upstart low-end Korean manufacturer has consistently out-played them over the past 15 years.
    However, don't write Sony off. They have come through crises before and they'll probably come through this one. They'll have to get their product range right- or die.

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