Sony’s Brand Strategy: The Effectiveness Brand Strategy in the Creation of Brand Value

The effectiveness of the brand remains on the consumers mind as the consumer of any Sony product expects that the company will continue to produce innovative and unique products that can utilize technology to the maximum and also create a cache of hype about the products it is these factors that have assisted in the promotion of the brand to become one of the most successful in history.

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Sony and other big companies have learnt to utilize brand strategies that have made either their products or services acceptable, to all. This has also driven the demand for goods and services. Brand strategy has always been a part of business strategy. Managers have always associated the strength of a brand being determined by the weak point of the brand strategy. It seems that this fact was already known by the founders of Sony a long time ago.

Developing a brand takes hard work, patience and some luck as most managers have admitted that the expansion of any brand is the one of the toughest steps in any business process. The brand of any company is important as it is used in the identification of the company to its consumers and other external persons or companies. As competition heats everyday, any company needs to remain visible, through constant marketing and consumer research. All these initiative assist in ensuring brand visibility. Sony has profited a lot through its branding initiatives all around the world. Just like other successful companies, Sony Corp. has managed the brand and considered it as part of the company asset.

Consumers have long associated the brands of certain products from certain companies. It is not unusual to find Sony consumers purchasing products and services from Sony even when there are cheaper alternatives in the market. The fact is that the success of the company is attributed to the strength of the brand both at home and outside the country. The company has also integrated its operations to involve other media activities such as sale of music and movies. The company turns in annual revenues of about $ 80 billion. This has been achieved through active marketing campaigns and branding initiatives which have seen its electronic products such as video game consoles and television sets among other products, (Miller 2003).

The corporation is just part of the larger family of Sony business operations that span from Sony electronics, Sony financial services, Sony pictures Entertainment which is responsible for movies and other animated motion pictures, Sony computer Entertainment, which is responsible for the manufacture of its gaming consoles, (Aaker 2004). Sony music entertainment, which is responsible for the recording and distribution of music worldwide and Sony Ericsson which is responsible for the manufacture of mobile phones and components. The company is indeed one of the most extensive as it is involved in nearly all sectors of products and services that affect daily lives of people all around the world.

The Sony brand is much of an asset as any employee or fixed assets such as infrastructure or equipment. Hence the Sony brand has been fostered in just the same way as any long term asset, (Joachim 2007).

Sony’s Brand Strategy

Sony has long utilized market research reports from its marketing departments which are located in nearly all the continents in which the firm has its operations. Through constant surveys, the Sony brand has grown from strength to strength as employees of the organization have realized that the different market and consumer segments that are in the market. The process is very complex as it involves using a variety of branding tools and techniques to identify where there is a need for marketing the Sony brand. Even in places where the Sony brand exists, there is still the need for reminding the customers continuously about the Sony product in the market.

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Customers are interested in purchasing quality products and receiving adequate customer service that will be to their satisfaction. This is especially true when it comes to home appliances as that can easily stop functioning due to faults within the systems. Sony’s brand strategy inculcates a culture of loyalty among its existing consumers who in turn attract new customers through their recommendations. Therefore it has always been important for Sony to constantly modify its brand strategy to reflect the market conditions of the time. We are now going to examine the Sony brand in terms of its Value, Image and Position.

Value

Among electronic makers, the Sony brand is the most valued brand with consumers and can only be rivaled by other brands such as Samsung and LG. the Sony brand is associated with the company’s ability to produce goods that are both innovative and of superior quality. Each product that the company makes can connect with its consumer. This is well evidenced in its products such as Trinitron, VAIO laptops not forgetting the famous Sony Walkman sub brands which were famed by tourist to Japan who would usually carry them back home to friend and family as part of gifts, (Sony Corporation 2008).

Value

It is the latter actions of the tourist that led to the adoption and long standing relation of the company with its consumers. Through exploiting the technical ability of its employees, the company has been able to display its technical prowess in the field of home appliances thus making it one of the most valued brands.

As put forth by the Chairman of the board, when every batch of employees are being oriented in the company, there is ale ways a constant reminder on them to always increase the value of the four letters, S.O.N.Y. Each action of the employees is geared towards increasing the value of the company as well as for themselves as employees of the great company, (Joachim 2005). In annual polls taken by various pollsters, the Sony brand has always remained at the top with other famous brands such as Coca- cola and Mercedes.

A major characteristic of these major brands is the customer satisfaction derived by consumers irrespective of location and geographical distance. In the minds of most customers, the brand is one of the greatest with the company being highly rated by pollsters and reviewers worldwide, (Kotler 2006). The company however doesn’t rest in its laurels as it is continuously engaged in research and development activities geared towards increasing the value of the brand as well as its products among consumers, Thorne (2006).

The company has started a series of programs and initiatives that target the consumers as well its employees on inculcating the Sony brand and making them understand the importance and the value that it holds in respect to quality, customer care and innovation. The initiatives are also a way of educating both employees and customers on the meaning of the brand as well as the company’s internal and external constituents as it strives to scrutinize the existent relationship that it enjoys with its customers across all the diverse cultures that the company has a base, , (Noellus 2009).

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Value weaknesses

The value on the brand of Sony lies in its limitations that it faces in coming p with solutions that will address the way the products reach the market. Such a scenario played itself out when Sony did not know which date that it would release its latest gaming console. This was because testing of the console had unraveled numerous errors that forced the corporation to delay its release. This significantly hurt the sales of the console as it was beaten by its rival the Nintendo Wii. This illustrated the fading consumer trust that was placed on Sony products after the debacle.

Brand scorecard

Image

Sony has been able to leverage its greatest resource which is the name Sony, (Jaffe 2006). The image that the name invokes among its consumers and employees is that of sophistication, the devices are portrayed in the consumers minds as a need rather than as a want and products made by the company are viewed of very high quality, (Michell 2010). The company has been able to set themselves apart using every resource at their disposal to market the brand as being highly fashionable and very dependable. Indeed a survey taken by the Harris a poll in late 2009, reported that consumers felt satisfied with their products after purchasing them and that the appliances had never broken down.

Some had purchased their equipment some time back. The minority of the consumers who had experienced a faulty device reported of excellent customer service in the resolution of the fault. This included the actual repair and the follow up with company representatives, (Effrel 2007). The image created by these actions fostered the brand name among consumers and even elicited positive emotional reactions when the name Sony was mentioned. The name Sony has been found to hold a worldwide appeal as it is recognized all over the world. Through the use of story telling among its consumers, the image of the Sony brand has risen to become part of Japanese cultural icon.

Other reason why the brand conjures positive images among the public is that the company has been making profits consistently and was only affected last year by the major economic meltdown that affected all companies, (Sexton 2008). The company has also a well managed and organized company structure that seeks to always respond to the needs of the market. The company has also used several techniques such as differentiation and segmentation to safeguard its position in existing markets.

All these initiatives have strengthened the image of the brand to its shareholders and the public at large. This has made the price of its shares rise steadily also to the shareholder’s satisfaction, (Riezebos 2003). As said before the Sony brand can extract strong emotional connections among its customers and especially towards the citizens of Japan who see the brand as having a huge economic impact, (De Chernatony 2003). The company is usually used as an economic indicator of how the country of Japan is performing.

In the recent past competition to the brand has also been looming with growing demand for electronic products from competitors such as Apple, Samsung among others. This has reduced the space in which Sony was able to operate in as many factors such as the change in consumer preference as now many American prefer to buy Apple as it is one of their products, while others are buying other brands due to extra services that cannot be found in Sony’s products. This has reduced the Sony brand image as the ultimate, must have electronic product.

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The Sony brand has been able to generate an image with the Japanese society. Researchers and marketers have realized that the company has to resonate with the society in which it operates, (Jagpal 2008). Through this the company has been able to show direction to the population living in the society by engaging directly with its consumers and the public. The company normally holds a clinic that spans for several days in which all the appliances of consumers are checked by technicians and often for free, (Chang 2008). Furthermore the company also engages with the society through various corporate social responsibility initiatives.

These initiatives are in line with its business of giving back to the society. Through sound business practice and novelty, the company has been able to send the right message to the society and the wider public in which it operates, hence enhancing the image of the brand.

Another characteristic of Japanese brands that stick in the heads of consumers is the Japanese work ethic and the Keiretsu system (Miller 2003). The Keiretsu system was a system made up of giant conglomerates that were owned by families. These corporations had close connections with the banks and hence had the financial banking to undertake massive projects, (Carroll 2008). These ensured that the corporations were shielded from economic uncertainties thus companies such as Sony were always viewed positively as stable by shareholders and prospective investors, (Elliott 2007).

Image weaknesses

Sony has been battling image weakness in its products in the recent past following the onslaught of other electronic makers such as Apple and Samsung. Reforms at the corporation have targeted the diminishing image of the Sony brand following a series of scandals and controversies that surrounded the firm. Following a string of allegation regarding the hyping of sales figures to the public, the corporation has had a drop in sales which has characterized the image that the consumers had with the company.

Sony’s Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the strategic identification of appropriate location in people’s mentality. The strategy is to recognize the best location for the brand in regards to its competitors in people’s mentality; this is done to take full advantage for the full benefit to the organization. Brand positioning involves a company establishing points of parity and points of difference. Sony succeeded in the past with placing the brand in the location the mind of its clients. In recent times, Sony has been unable to leverage from its brand position as they have been to break even, in those areas, where their rivals are trying to benefit and realize inherent advantages.

Sony has also been seen to struggle in the definition and communication of competitive frame of reference. This means that the company was unable to find the right brand platform. One thing that must be noted is that finding this platform requires an interactive approach with the consumers. A feasibility study is required for the brand to achieve at the defined level. Sony has not done this for some time and this is what has contributed to the weakening of the brand. Ideas and testing of formulation should be conducted to identify the needs of the consumers

Sony has also struggled to revise constantly on the position of its brand. It is a well known fact that brand positions are highly affected by competitive forces. These forces are in the form of competitor marketing strategy.

Position

The Sony brand is well positioned as it is normally compared with top brands. Although it was number one for a long time the top slot has been taken by its rival Samsung which is based in Korea (Bell 2008). In the recent past the Sony brand has been rising and this has manifested by the launch of it new gaming console “PlayStation 3.”As the leader in consumer home appliances and electronics, the question on every one’s lips was what happened? However the brand is still recognized. One fault that was identified as a reason for the drop from the top spot is the complex nature of maintaining consistency especially in diverse environments, (Ellwood 2002).

All the international manufactures of home appliances have had to contend with this difficult. (Waddell 2004). The continued onslaught by its competitors through unleashing different models at short intervals has forced Sony to reinvent and examine issues with consistency of product evolution and market introduction (Slywotzky 2008). The ability of the brand to communicate to all customers through one voice and across all touch points, while also maintaining consistency in a constantly changing environment is a difficult task. Samsung is credited as being able to have successively done this and this is the reason that it was able to take over the number one slot. Three major factors are attributed to the rise of the Sony brand to it high position that it currently enjoys,

Innovation

Since inception Sony has been able to display the ability to always create and generate dazzling new products and that test the boundaries of laws of physics regarding home appliances, (Schmitt 2008). From the walk man to the Plasma screens, Sony has been able to manufacture products way ahead when its competitors are still manufacturing products. Sony has also displayed an ability to detect where there could be hidden consumer demand and addressing this need by creating innovative products. An example of this is when the Sony walkman was introduced to the market, there was no apparent need for such a device, but after the device was created, the need arose among consumers, (Mariotti 2006).

Strategic leadership and management

Through the leadership of its founders, the company has been able to pass through many obstacles and hurdles. The founders have been able to carry forward the ethos and dreams of the founders till today. The management of the company has fostered a culture of experimentation which saw the rise of innovative products from the company (Baker 2006). The founders of the company were one of the earliest managers to realize the importance of branding and at the company and fully utilized the power of the Sony brand to sprint ahead of its competition (Belch 2003).

Pioneering advantage

Being the first in any field guarantees any company the opportunity get hold of the market share before the competitors (Agtmael 2004). In every sector that Sony has been involved in, its competitors have had to play second fiddle in terms of capturing the majority market share. This is so because the company has leant to take advantage of its innovation and its ability to detect the needs of the consumer even sometimes before the consumers have known what they want. Through research and development, the company has been able to sustain the brand to become the top sought after electronic brand in the world, (Urn 1992).

The pace at which the company can captured markets both home and abroad through their products can be attributed to proper market research and the power of its brand as consumers are more likely o buy products from Sony due to the brand strength (Capon 2008). Being the first electronic manufacturer in any market has allowed Sony to test its product and also room for experimentation for prototypes that are still being developed in their labs. Any time that the competition enters after Sony, the effects is an advantage to Sony as the competition is normally judged with Sony having set a high bench mark for other manufacturers to follow (Kase 2006).

Sony’s Current Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is the strategic identification of appropriate location in people’s mentality. The strategy is to recognize the best location for the brand in regards to its competitors in people’s mentality; this is done to take full advantage for the full benefit to the organization. Brand positioning involves a company establishing points of parity and points of difference. Sony succeeded in the past with placing the brand in the location the mind of its clients.

In recent times, Sony has been unable to leverage from its brand position as they have been to break even, in those areas, where their rivals are trying to benefit and realize inherent advantages. Sony has also been seen to struggle in the definition and communication of competitive frame of reference. This means that the company was unable to find the right brand platform. One thing that must be noted is that finding this platform requires an interactive approach with the consumers. A feasibility study is required for the brand to achieve at the defined level. Sony has not done this for some time and this is what has contributed to the weakening of the brand. Ideas and testing of formulation should be conducted to identify the needs of the consumers

Sony has also struggled to revise constantly on the position of its brand. It is a well known fact that brand positions are highly affected by competitive forces. These forces are in the form of competitor marketing strategy.

Recommendation

To strengthen its position and solidify its premium brand from the competition, it is important that Sony concentrate on their core competencies and channel their resources towards them, (Aaker 2004). Sony has been for sometime now engaged in a myriad of businesses but this diversification has made the company lose focus on the competition as much as also using a lot of the company’s resources. The focus that has been for some time lost should be regained; this is because the market place is fast becoming filled with competitors from all over the world. The focus should be more on businesses that contribute towards strengthening the Sony brand.

Conclusion

It is no question that Sony brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Due to the measures that the management has in place, the Sony brand will continue reverberate across the Electronics sector, but this can only be for sometime if drastic measures are not taken. As discussed in the recommendation, the management at Sony needs to refocus their thoughts and actions towards innovating products that will strengthen their brand and discard all others that do not contribute to this effort. As seen, the Sony brand has been promoted over the years due to the hard work of the management and their strategies, it will be sad to see this brand fade away as the competition rises.

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