Sony Integrates Marketing Message Around High Def

Jettisons Product-by-Product Approach That Had Marketer Competing Against Itself

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Sony's latest -- and, it says, biggest -- integrated marketing campaign touts the company's high-definition heritage, or "HDNA." The tagline? "High Definition. It's in our DNA."
Though Sony is touting its HD DNA, some consumer studies show that people still don't quite get what HD is.
Though Sony is touting its HD DNA, some consumer studies show that people still don't quite get what HD is.

The campaign, which Chief Marketing Officer Mike Fasulo said is "more than $100 million" (29% of which is directed toward internet buys), kicks off this weekend. Sony is just one of many consumer-electronics companies to get behind HD for marketing pushes. It claims that it's in the best position to do so because it not only offers products to view HD video -- Bravia TVs, the BluRay DVDs, the HD Sony PlayStation 3 console -- but also the cameras on which HD video is shot and a film studio that produces HD films.

'HD is what we do'
"We transfer and share knowledge among products lines," Mr. Fasulo said last night at the Sony Style store in Midtown Manhattan, where the company unveiled the campaign. "HD is what we do." He said that in consumer unaided awareness studies that ask what manufacturer shoppers think of when they think of high definition, Sony rises to the top.

Mr. Fasulo didn't mention the other consumer studies that show people still don't quite get what HD is. Despite meager consumer understanding of the various HD options -- the difference between resolutions 720p, 1080i and 1080p, for example, or formats such as plasma and LCD -- consumer-electronics companies continue to launch marketing campaigns around HD.

Mr. Fasulo admits such confusion exists, but said Sony is an example of a company working to improve that. "We need to remove the fear from consumers about HD and obsolescence," he said, later noting that Sony has a website devoted to HD 101. "Frankly, I wish our industry did a better job of that."

Entertainment, not education
There was no clear educational bent to the three TV ads -- one national, two local -- that Sony screened at the event, which star sports stars Peyton Manning and Dale Earnhardt Jr. In one, Mr. Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, carries cords from the football field, where cameraman are busy filming with Sony HD cameras, to the HD broadcast control truck to a homeowner's living room, where he plugs it into the TV. The message? "Watch Peyton Manning the same way a network cameraman does, on a Sony."

The good news for consumer-electronic manufacturers is that the confusion does not seem to be suppressing interest in high-def. A recent survey by Sony competitor Hitachi showed that even though two-thirds of Americans didn't feel like they could explain the HD concept, three in four were interested in an HDTV for their next TV purchase. Marketing in action?

Competing against itself
Stuart Redson, VP-marketing at Sony, justified the integrated approach by saying the old marketing strategy was to market product-by-product in a way that "doesn't really build up to anything." He said Sony was competing against itself for consumer attention. While Sony does indeed have different brands, they're not different brands like Procter & Gamble has, he said.

"We're playing to our strength," he said. "Everything we do during this time period will have that hero message."

Separately, Sony yesterday announced a free recycling program that lets consumers drop off Sony products at designated Waste Management drop-off centers. It hopes to have 175 such sites in place by the end of the year and will begin testing coupon incentives to encourage consumers to recycle in Colorado.
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