Sony. A Lot of Baloney

August 20, 2009
Insight Media

Some years ago, Sony mounted a clever advertising campaign in the U.S. with the theme "Sony. No Baloney." (For non-North American readers, baloney refers to an inexpensive processed sandwich meat, and "no baloney" is a colloquial expression meaning "no nonsense or dishonesty.") Here at Insight Media we've been shaking our heads for the last few days over the huge wave of baloney issued by Sony.

The latest wave began with an August 18th Sony Electronics press release titled "Sony Integrated Marketing Campaign Cuts Through the Retail Noise; Panel of Celebrity Experts Guide Consumers Through CE Decision-Making Purchase Process by Reinforcing Sony Quality."

"The campaign's theme," said the release, "centers on a message of Sony quality as a point of differentiation to resolve the decision-making purchase process at retail, and ultimately lead consumers to purchase a Sony product." Sony's campaign focuses on an expanded list of celebrity panelists, said Stuart Redsun, senior vice president, marketing. The panels "collectively resonate with a broad swath of U.S. consumers."

There's no reason to think the celebrities know much about consumer electronic products, but fans of Justin Timberlake, Peyton Manning, and Dion Beebe are supposed to believe that Sony makes high-quality products because high-profile celebrities and professionals say they do.

Redsun says he is selling Sony "quality," but when you've become as big and as ineffectual as Sony has become, you'd better start selling the strengths of your products one by one against the competition and forget the "Sony is quality in the abstract" mantra. The time is gone when people buy a Sony -- they buy a TV set or a camera, and they're looking at features, price, and quality when they do. And Sony has lost product leadership in virtually all categories. Can you think of a single product category in which Sony is automatically the first choice -- other than overpriced, underperforming 11-inch OLED-TV sets?

Even in LCD television, Sony is now third in the U.S. market. In Q2'09 Vizio was first with 21.7%, Samsung was second with 21.3%, and Sony was third with 11.9%, followed by Toshiba (8.3%), LG (7.9%), Panasonic (6.0%), and Sharp (5.3%). (All market shares from iSuppli.)

Today, Sony issued another press release: "Sony Launches 'DigiDad Project' with Top Tier Daddy Bloggers." This is too painful to write about in detail, but this sentence from the press release will give you the idea: "Sony Electronics is teaming up with influential daddy bloggers over the next three months by loaning them products which they'll use to capture family experiences."

What else? Oh, yes. Sony is dropping the price of its now underperforming PS3 game console by $100 or £100. The PS3 was once a cash cow for Sony, but it's now getting long in the tooth. (A new, slender PS3 version will be available in September, at the same price as the price-reduced traditional versions.)

Sony hasn't had a genuinely innovative product in a long time. Rather than spending millions on baloney, Sony should be spending its money on product development. Where is the Sony Walkman of the 21st Century? We know the answer to that one. Apple made it. Who made the exciting thin TV sets of 2009? Samsung.

Sony has fantastic potential and we hope the company has cool, innovative products on the way, but the current trends are not inspiring confidence in this direction.