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Marketer: Sony Corp.

Agency: BBDO Worldwide, Shanghai

Sony's new Network Walkman takes on Apple's iPod in Asia

[Shanghai, China] Sony Corp., eager to revive its reputation for innovation, stolen by Apple's iPod, is putting marketing muscle behind its Network Walkman family of digital MP3 players.

The high-tech gadgets represent a tremendous growth opportunity. Global sales of MP3 players doubled in 2004, to more than 20 million units and will continue to grow at an average annual rate of almost 45% for the next six years, according to Informa Media. By 2010, total sales will have risen to slightly more than 194 million units.

The Japanese company's determination to drive sales of the Network Walkman is particularly visible in China's fast-growing market, where Sony recently launched a vibrant print campaign aimed at urban trendsetters. Ads highlight the new E500 line's hip design, color scheme and cutting-edge technology, said Almon Lam, group creative director at Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Shanghai, which was appointed to handle creative for Network Walkman last January.

Although Sony and Apple both cater to music-loving Asians with their portable devices, the Network Walkman "is not geared at being an iPod wannabe. It's definitely about having its own unique edge. Also, the strategy is to prioritize growing the market overall," said Shanghai-based Harjot Singh, BBDO's strategic planning director, China.

Apple's iPod has another rival coming out of North Asia. BenQ, a spinoff from Taiwan's Acer that specializes in networking lifestyle devices, just launched Qube, a square-shaped mobile phone with built-in MP3 player and camera, which is marketed specifically to music lovers.

Two versions of an ad campaign for BenQ were created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide in Taipei, one featuring Taiwanese rock band Mayday for use in Greater China, and a second that will run throughout Europe under the tagline, "It's hip to be square."

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