Sony plays up lifestyle message

Online contest aimed at well-heeled urban consumers

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SHANGHAI--Sony Corp. ignored its usual strategy of pushing the product benefits of its Handycam camcorder range to market its new hard disk drive, or HDD, model.

Instead, the Japanese electronics giant has created an interactive strategy it hopes will expand the overall HDD category and improve its connection with trendy, young Chinese consumers. One of its more innovative campaigns in that market so far, the initiative is part of Sony’s ongoing effort to rejuvenate its overall brand image with edgier marketing.

The HDD launch campaign, created by JWT, Shanghai, encourages young, urban adults to own a camcorder as a way to easily capture and share unexpected, exciting moments in a country whose culture is quickly evolving.

The company is tapping into the popularity of the internet in China with an online "I wanna shoot" contest. Consumers can compete for a free HDD camcorder by submitting reasons they want to own a camera to a Sony Handycam mini site, (the site's name is a playful translation of the Chinese words, “I want to shoot, shoot shoot"), which also lets users share their own videos. The mini site links to Sony’s main Chinese-language Handycam site.

Sony drove traffic to its site with three 15” and 30” spots appearing on Chinese versions of the U.S. site as well as Focus Media’s network of flat screen monitors in public spaces. The contest is also supported by radio and small posters.

The spots show comical moments among families, sports fans and a couple. In each case, one person saw something the others missed but the crucial moment was captured on an HDD camera visible only to the viewer. The spots end with an invitation to visit the web site to answer questions about each incident missed by the characters in the commercial and take part in the contest.

Launched during China’s week-long holiday in early October, the campaign will be expanded into print, point-of-sale materials and outdoor media. It will run through the end of the year.

In developing a launch strategy for the HDD camcorder in China, Sony’s biggest hurdle was its own success in the camcorder category. It already controls half the market with a full range of products. Tape, disc, high-definition and high resolution players are all available to the 9% of consumers who can afford pricey electronics in China’s 16 largest cities, the scope of the HDD campaign.

Traditionally, camcorder ownership has been limited to middle class Chinese who are new parents or can afford to travel. Trading up usually isn’t an option, or even a desire, said Yuan Yong, business director at JWT, Shanghai. The agency worked with the Chinese online ad specialist Allyes AdNetwork and Sony’s media agency in China, ZenithOptimedia.

Strong promotion of the hard drive storage system compared to disc and tape camcorders would have caused “unnecessary internal cannibalization within the Sony Handycam portfolio,” he said.

Competition was also a threat, as JVC was the first company to launch an HDD camcorder in China, and Panasonic, Canon and Samsung are also coming out with new products.

By focusing on the HDD camcorder’s product benefits, the campaign could “marginalize the campaign’s effect [and] dogfighting with the competitors for an extra slice of the pie will likely trigger a possible price war,” Mr. Yuan said.

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