Sony's Walkman comes of age by reinventing itself for Net era

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Sony Electronics relaunches its 21-year-old Walkman brand this week with more than $30 million in advertising and marketing. Created by Y&R Advertising, New York, the campaign is the largest ever for products in Sony's Personal Mobile Products unit.

The multimedia effort, which breaks June 7 on Fox Television in prime time, includes TV, print, event marketing and online media. It targets Gen Yers, defined by Sony as 14-to-24-year-olds, while also promoting Walkman as an inclusive brand appealing to diverse musical tastes and lifestyles.

Luminant, Y&R's interactive arm, and Impiric, its direct marketing unit, helped build the campaign; the Media Edge handles media buying. The campaign contemporizes the iconoclastic brand, which launched in 1979.

"We want to reinvent Walkman," said T. Scott Edwards, senior VP-marketing communications for Sony Electronics. "Walkman is a brand that has phenomenal equity, but really was in need of reinventing itself."

INTERNET'S INFLUENCE

Mr. Edwards pointed to the Internet's influence in distributing diverse musical genres almost instantaneously, and a new generation of Sony Walkman products, such as the Memory Stick Walkman, which enables the digerati to download tracks straight from the Net. He suggested that while Walkman pioneered the portable music category in 1979 and represented liberation, Walkman in 2000 takes the idea a step further by promoting the notion of multiple technologies enabling a liberated lifestyle.

Sony breaks the first of four TV spots during Fox's broadcast of a Britney Spears concert. The 60-second "Spaceship" introduces Plato, an amiable big-headed space alien who lands on a college campus bringing advanced technology to wide-eyed students, in this case, the Memory Stick Walkman. "(Rock) Superstar," a popular track by rap group Cypress Hill, thunders in the background. There's no voice-over until the end of the spot: "The Walkman has landed." Spots are tagged with the dedicated URL sony.com/walkman.

After June 7, "Spaceship" will run exclusively on MTV for three weeks, before hitting other broadcast outlets.

`A GREAT EVANGELIST'

"The alien's hip to the future, and he can be a great evangelist for diversity, for multiple music and lifestyles," Mr. Edwards said.

Subsequent spots take place in a dorm room and language lab, and integrate other products in the Walkman family, including the MiniDisc Walkman, the Network Walkman and a CD Walkman with an anti-skip feature.

Sony has teamed with five media partners -- MXG, Rolling Stone, The Source and Teen People, and Teen Active Network, a series of extreme sports publications -- on highly targeted ad and marketing programs. Event marketing and integrated programs with retailers are also part of the plan.

Sony will use its sponsorship of the MTV Video Music Awards Sept. 4 as a Walkman showcase.

Interactive marketing leverages a new relationship with Liquid Audio, in which tracks from Sony and non-Sony artists can be downloaded for free to use with the Walkman.

`SENSE OF COMMUNITY'

"The Web site is a critical element. We created a world of Walkman and tried to create a sense of community and content that leverages the campaign," said John Hambrick, director-marketing communications at Sony.

Content on artists, videos and tracks will change frequently. Product information and a dealer locator are also included.

Campus marketing, including guerrilla tactics such as wild postings and ads in college papers, will roll out in August. Print ads hitting in August magazines will feature various aspects of Plato's "everyman" character.

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