Communication strategiesThe two consumer-electronics marketers had similar advertising budgets but didn't deploy them the same way.
LG's advertising strategy is developed globally and then localized for domestic markets. For many years "Life's good" has dominated LG's messaging for all its various product offerings. In January 2009, LG partnered with Conde Nast Media Group and introduced a slightly different catchphrase -- "Life looks good" -- into the creative global messaging of LG's TV line. Its media mix in the U.S. skewed more heavily to magazines (49%) and national TV (35%).
CES in the first week of January is the electronics industry's equivalent of Detroit's Auto Show. It's a major marketing event designed to showcase product innovations and create buzz, with the likes of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Sony Corp.'s Howard Stringer, Intel's Craig Barrett and even Ford Motor President-CEO Alan Mulally descending on the annual Las Vegas event.
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Panasonic impressed with its 3-D full HDTV booth, which included a mini home theater that featured a 103-inch plasma 3-D Blu-ray panel. Screening scenes from feature films "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Bolt," it garnered a lot of buzz from attendees and many of the credible tech sites reviewing the event. It capped off the week with Panasonic's G10 series being named top TV at CES by CNet Editor David Katzmaier.
LG developed a significant partnership with Conde Nast Media Group. The first installment featured film director Edward Zwick ("Glory," "The Last Samurai") in a four-page insert in Conde Nast's Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Vogue and GQ. The ad shows Zwick on a desert movie set looking at an LG flat-panel TV in front of him and includes quotes reflecting his thoughts on cinematography and landscapes. The online portion contained dedicated LG websites on Conde Nast properties, including style.com, concierge.com, wired.com, that featured video interviews with Zwick as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of his Santa Monica, Calif., office. The focus is on Zwick and his experience, not the LG equipment, designed to create a more emotional link to the LG brand. LG's partnership was noteworthy in that it made Conde Nast both the creator and sole distributor of the ad -- a great example of a publisher going beyond just selling traditional media space.
To capitalize on its status as the official consumer-electronics sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Panasonic organized a national tour to "Get your family ready for the first HD Olympics." In the 100 days leading up to the games, trucks visited retailers across the country promoting the Olympics, offering autograph signings by past Olympic athletes and a sweepstakes to win Viera HDTVs, with a grand-prize trip for four to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Aside from the Olympics, Panasonic's other long-term sports sponsorship is with Major League Soccer. The deal was extended in February and guarantees Panasonic the rights to MLS league and team marks, in-stadium signage, player appearances, and onsite promotional rights at MLS games. Last summer, Panasonic teamed with Best Buy to promote Viera TVs through outdoor, local TV and point-of-sale promotions in Hispanic-skewing and Best Buy-heavy markets including Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Executions were entirely in Spanish and featured MLS stars David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel and Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
LG avoided sponsorship, instead focusing its marketing dollars behind product advertising. It pulled its PGA Skins Tournament sponsorship this year, which led to the cancellation of the event.
Panasonic built a website, livinginhd.com, with the goal of educating consumers about Panasonic's high-definition products -- TVs, camcorders, Blu-ray players, cameras, laptops and home theater systems. The site promotes a social aspect by encouraging Panasonic customers to share their videos and comments on the site. Livinginhd.com also features a learning center that includes a question-and-answer section starring Greg Harper, the "Answerman"; how-tos; tips; an FAQ; and forums.
Panasonic ran a steady stream of display ads promoting its Viera on shopping and influencer sites such as CNet, Epinions, PC World, PriceGrabber.com, Shopping.com and Shopzilla.
LG display ads have run exclusively on Conde Nast web properties since January 2009 (see print media above). The site invites visitors to learn more about LG's latest innovations at LG's home page.
To support its presence at CES, Panasonic funded six influential bloggers to attend the show. They met with Panasonic executives such as Chief Marketing Officer Bob Greenberg, hung out at the Panasonic booth and press sessions, and previewed products. While Panasonic had no say as to what was written, it did get a steady stream (daily, if not hourly) of blog entries, Twitter and video blogs posted, most all of it positive to neutral. It also ran brand-sponsored pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Panasonic and its resellers bought branded and unbranded phrases that consistently gave them more traffic. LG tended to focus on buying its brand name as a search phrase.
Panasonic ran TV spots primarily on cable last year, and featured a busy family "booked" with activities such as a Spanish tutor and ballet, in need of some "Viera time" together in front of the TV. That was followed by "Enhance Your Passions," a new spot launched in April, which highlighted all the features of the Viera, such as its image viewer, iPod entertainment kit and Viera Cast.
LG ran a combination of network, cable and national syndication, running its "The speed can't be matched" spot that shows seemingly impossibly realistic images on the TV, while a voice-over explains the speed at which the motion detail works on the LG TV, finally summing up the commercial with the question: "Is it a TV or is it something better? LG. Life's good."
These are two very different media communication strategies behind two seemingly similar products. Both Panasonic and LG both deserve high marks for their use of media to differentiate.
Panasonic used a backbone of newspapers and TV behind its campaign. However, it went outside traditional media to influence shoppers (truck road shows) and bloggers and used activities to influence influencers at CES. It was also active in paid search.
LG used traditional media imaginatively. Its print and online partnership with Conde Nast was one bright spot of an advertiser and publishing company truly innovating by customizing and leveraging content in a very organic way across their print and online properties. Other publishers should take note.
While this one is very close, and I applaud some strong components in Panasonic's plan, LG's media strategy came across as more cohesive and more differentiating. Because both companies report only global revenue figures across the range of products, it is difficult to determine the campaigns' impact on sales. However, using Google search volume for TV brands as one metric, LG has overtaken Panasonic so far this year after trailing in 2008.
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