How Sony Plans to Bring Excitement Back to Brand

NEW YORK Stuart Redsun, who joined Sony Electronics in June 2006 as svp, corporate marketing, last month launched the first brand campaign on his watch: “Like. no. other,” from BBDO. A marketing veteran of Nike, Gateway, Motorola and Helio, Redsun talked to Adweek about the company’s marketing strategy and agency relationships.

Q: Most of your media spend is evenly divided between TV and print, with about $60 million going to each in the U.S. Given that many people buy electronics on the Internet, why isn’t there more Web spending?
A: A big reason we’re using so much television for this campaign is that we need to have efforts that create excitement around the total Sony brand. In the past, Sony Electronics has gone to market by category. And many times, at the exact same time. So in effect, we were competing against ourselves for the same mind space. As part of our campaigns going forward, we’re picking points in time where we’re creating a lot of excitement around the Sony brand in general. In the past, we would focus [on] specific products and features and functions. But when you added them all up, Sony didn’t resonate as strongly.

What will be the major point of difference between Sony and Samsung or Panasonic?
From all of the research we’ve seen, the things that make Sony stand alone are quality, number one, as well as innovation, style and design. First and foremost, quality. No one even comes close to us in the industry in terms of the reputation that everything attached with the Sony brand has.

Yet Sony has fallen in the Interbrand rankings behind Samsung. And in terms of U.S. sales, it’s third behind Panasonic and Hitachi in some categories.
Interbrand’s survey takes into account a company’s financial measures, so it’s not the pure momentum of your brand or the pure strength of your brand [that’s being measured]. From Sony’s standpoint, we know we have to provide much more innovation in terms of our products. We have to continue to drive our highest-quality products and promote those heavily, and our most aesthetic-looking design products as well. And we’re going to do that in a big way.

Can you describe what qualities distinguish each of the agencies with which you’ve worked, such as Wieden + Kennedy, McCann Erickson and BBDO?
It all boils down to getting the right people on your business who live and breathe [it], and in effect become a part of your overall marketing department. Where it falters is when you get to a point where there is that division of agency/client or client/vendor, which is as bad as it can be. Once that happens, the chance to do any great work is really lost. Overall, the relationship is at its best when it’s fluid, when the ideas come in any direction and it really is a partnership.

When you were at Motorola, it was outmaneuvered by Nokia in terms of the design of its mobile phones. Is Sony putting more emphasis on product design than it has in the past?
Design, quality and innovation have always been there [at Sony]. But you can obviously see, citing examples from other brands, that when you lose sight of those key attributes, a brand can falter. It’s something we’ll continue to put much more emphasis behind. We have an advantage in the U.S. [because] we also have a design center here that helps Tokyo with designs that are right for the U.S. market.

How are the marketing challenges at Sony different from other companies where you’ve worked?
You have to tout what makes your brand unique. Nike certainly did that well. At Motorola, we [had] a brand that lost its luster. It had all these innovative products on the mobile phone side and once it lost that lead we had to really reinvigorate it. Sony has never really lost that love from the consumer, as evidenced by [various] sources.

Can you talk a bit about how the work is divided between BBDO and 180?
Initially, it was really looked at in terms of pure workload. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other in terms of a certain discipline. It’s more of each having a different approach and a different way of thinking. For us, it’s a way to balance out the creative horsepower that both partners have so that you can always ensure you’re getting the freshest thinking on your business. 180 will be developing our second effort coming out later this year that’s tied to products around back-to-school and the holiday season. They’ll do a full, multimedia effort similar to what BBDO just produced. We started [with] both agencies at the same time [with the idea] that BBDO was going to take the first effort and 180 was going to take the second. Depending on the category and seasonality, they’ll switch off.

Can we expect a change in your media mix?
You’ll see a lot more online from us. You’ll also see a lot more that isn’t traditionally measured media. You’ll see a lot more efforts at retail in terms of what we can do to better help our partners sell Sony products, whether it be events, point-of-sale or promotions that drive folks to retail. Really a lot more on the floor where consumers can see for themselves the quality of our products versus the competition.

Can you make a prediction about the media and entertainment landscape five years out?
We’ll continue to see the proliferation of the anytime, anywhere [phenomenon] as mobile devices get stronger, battery life gets better, networks get faster. We will see the proliferation of the “snacking of society,” how we just snack in little nuggets all the time. [It’ll be] like that in media where you’re always in tune with your content. You’re creating your own world in terms of your entertainment and technology options because it’ll always be with you.