Sony Is 'Blindly In Love With Its Brand' Says Marketing Expert

Precisely how much financial trouble Sony is in at the moment is up for debate, but one fact is clear — it is struggling as a company right now. But why? According to one Marketing expert, it's diluting the brand with too many appliances across across a too wide spectrum of products.

"Sony is an example of what happens when a company falls blindly in love with its brand," writes Tim Calkins, at Building Strong Brands. Calkins is a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

"Sony uses its brand on all sorts of products: televisions, cameras, computers, music players, digital book readers and toys," he continues. "In a remarkable move, several years back Sony decided to use the brand on a movie studio and on a music label. Sony’s high-end products carry the Sony brand. The low-end products carry the Sony brand, too."

"These moves all weaken the Sony brand — not strengthen it. That's because every time it comes out with a new product and slaps the Sony logo on it, it waters the brand down. Sony has lost its meaning."

According to Calkins, PlayStation has been one of Sony's few branding successes, and other Sony brands should seek to emulate that success.

"One of the few successes at Sony has been PlayStation, a business that built a distinct brand," he said. "PlayStation is a unique and special brand. Sony isn’t."



    Huh? Sony is the name of the company. Why would they give their products a name that implies it's not from Sony?

    Marketing people worry me.

      Because when you think Nintendo, you think of videogames, and generally speaking, damn good ones. When you think of Disney, you think of animation and family entertainment - in spite of the fact that Disney also owns MGM, Touchstone and ABC. Those brands are retained so that each can have their own focus, their own image that, ideally, comes to mind when you think of them.

      The point being made is that if Sony is a name for high end products and cheap throwaway goods, then when you hear Sony, you don't think of anything with any definition. It does nobody any good, in the end, to have the same name on a cutting edge HDTV as on a crappier low-end one. The name becomes meaningless.

      That's not exactly the biggest disaster for a company, and some can make it work, but it -can- harm the public's perception of you.

        I also think Pokemon for nintendo....

      Well, the food industry does it a fair bit. For example, Fanta and NesTea are owned by Coca Cola, Uncle Toby's and Maggi products are owned by Nestlé, Pascall and Old Gold is owned by Cadbury. Each has their own range of products but none make it obvious other than in the fine print that they are owned by their respective parent companies.

        but the main point is that Sony does not differentiate their low-end products from their high-end, nor do they with different types of products, the only thing they have done are Sony Xplod (awful quality car audio!) and Sony Ericsson (now just Sony). But the matter of fact that across all consumer products the Sony name is labelled, whether it be a quality product or a throwaway cheap product can damage the brand name significantly.

        Buy a cheap pair of Sony earphones that break down on you in the matter of weeks and tell me Sony still make great quality products. Consumers are normally very unforgiving, if they have a bad experience with a product, their level of trust for that particular brand will definitely be hindered.

    Arn't Bravia, Walkman, Vaio, etc all Sony brands that stand alone?

      Correct, However, (walkman being the exception), they dont market these brands individually like they do playstation. Its all "Sony" still.

      Even marketing it as "Vaio" by Sony would be a marked improvement.

      Funny thing is all companies strong in TV's market the main brand too much as well, to bring the strength through to other tech (Panasonic and Samsung are good at doing this also), and I find it really isnt the best way either.

    "Sony Is ‘Blindly In Love With Its SELF’ Says Marketing Expert"


      Grammatical mindwarp there. I'm still struggling whether the headline is correct!

      Huh? The headline is fine. The COMPANY Sony is blindly in love with THE BRAND Sony. The company has a brand, they're not identical.

    This just in: Company puts its logo on its products, more at 5.

      I don't think you understand what he is saying.
      He is saying that they should use spin off brands for their lower end devices so that they once again get known for premium electronics. ATM they are just another player in the market who has the reputation for offering the occasional good product but also hell of a lot of crappy ones.

        I do understand, I just don't agree. The way I see it, quality Sony products already have a kind of "sub-brand", like Bravia, Playstation, Vegas, Xperia, etc. Giving their "lesser" products a "sub-brand" is pretty much dooming all further products under that name. I'm sure plenty of stupid consumers buy certain products for their brand name (eg. every apple product ever) but if Sony make a few shitty cameras, it's not going to affect my opinion on the company in the slightest. But if they make a shitty camera brand, I would avoid any further products of that brand like the plague. I do understand, but I don't agree with the idea. I think it has as much potential to do harm than good.

          Funny you use Apple, But they actually use sub brands themselves for the reason the article specifies.

          MacBook, iPad, iPod, iphone (could go on)..... Yes they are apple, but they advertise it all via sub brand.

            I knew I would get this comment as soon as I wrote 'apple'... Yes, they use these brands to sell their products, and sony does it too, buy like I mentioned with the camera brand example, if someone has a bad experience with one of those brands, they are unlikely to try it again. Personally, I wouldn't ever again touch a macbook with a 10ft pole, but that wouldn't stop me from buying an ipod. I can see the advantages, but this article doesn't even consider the disadvantages.

              In agreeance, macbooks are overpriced and not worth their weight in gold. But your still missing the differences.

              Sony has sub brands yes. They DO NOT market using subrands. They market it as SONY.

              Apple markets their products as their own identity based on their tech group (laptops/media device).

              Sony would stand to pick its overall brand up by not whacking the company logo on everything. Use its subrands better. Hell they dont for TV's either. Bravia is put on all levels of TV's, it should be kept for the top few in the range, and market the rest as a different sub brand. It works wonders when pushing why this sony tv is $1500, but the next one is $4000. Consumers dont want the full technical everytime. They want to know that if they bough Bravia being top of range last time, that bravia isnt cheap next time they buy in 3 years.

              This is why Samsungs 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 series TV's work. Each differntiates quality.

              And id love to know these "disadvantages" as I can see none.

                I'd love to stay and discuss this but being at work on a phone is quite tedious, but the disadvantage I'm talking about is the fact that when people buy a sony "phototaker mk2" and realize it's a piece of shit, why would they want to buy a "phototaker mk3"? If you're selling lower end products, there's no point slapping a spiffy brand on it because when people realize the brand relates to low end products, why would they want to buy from the brand again? I've always seen these sub brands as a mark of quality, and I'm sure many others do too.

                  I have to apologize if I seem to be repeating myself, it's just difficult to convey my opinion in my current situation

                  This is why Sub-Brands work. This is what the article is trying to portray. Keep it all branded Sony, its diluting the overall brand. Your right, phototaker mk2 is shit and low end. Its market isnt for those wanting more. So those who hate it and want more go photoextreme mk3 next time.

                  Coming from a sales background working with TV's Cameras computing etc, sub brands are the easiest way for selling goods. Its why apple is so successful with its range of products over HP or Toshiba in computing. Your on the right track, but your disadvantage is exactly why Sony is hurting branding everything under Sony, and not sub brands.

                  The difference is with the way they market it you aren't buying a phototaker mk 2, you are buying a sony camera. The brand (phototaker) isn't pushed what is pushed is sony.
                  So what people get is i bought a sony and it was useless so now when I am looking for a mp3 player, and all their mp3 players are pushed as sony I will remember i bought a sony once and it was useless so I won't make the same mistake twice.

          Keep in mind (and I'm assuming this because you're on Kotaku) your main interaction with Sony is the successful Playstation. Your right that it has potential to do harm as well as good (I'm guessing Playstation sales are the only thing moving Sony TVs anymore) but the thing is that they've lost some serious ground because of it and they've lost some flexibility.
          For instance Sony TVs could probably do better if they weren't stuck staying in line with Sony's premium lifestyle marketting attitude. Rather than just making a high quality TV at a reasonable price they've been stuck making luxury, feature packed TVs that the market isn't interested in. They could just dump the attitude, but then that'll feed back into Sony cameras and the Playstation where the Sony elite brand name actually works for them.

          It's true that they are sub-branded but one of Sony's big things in the past decade and a half has been putting the SONY brand/logo front and center. It's an understandable strategy but I think it is one of the big mistakes that's causing them so much financial stress. They simply can't maintain one brand image for this many product ranges.

      This just in: some retard on the internet doesn't understand an article, more at 5

        haha +1

        Clever, really. But I did fully understand the article and my comment was intended to be only just as rediculous as those made by the "marketing expert", but yours takes the cake.

          Yeah sure you did. Stop trying to save face by claiming that you got it all along and just admit that you didn't get the point. People will end up respecting you more.

          Also, where do I pick up this cake you speak of? Should I email you my address or something?

            Why would I take a lesson on respect from someone who openly calls people they've never even met or know nothing about a retard over the Internet based on one ironic comment?
            That's right, I wouldn't. The only thing about this article I don't understand is why you're so upset.

              I'm not getting upset over it. I'm merely pointing out that you are an idiot

                If you weren't upset, you wouldn't resort to calling people names. Something obviously struck a nerve.

                  Totally. I'm assuming that you have some sort of internet psychology degree or qualification then?

      grr Wrong comment.
      itself is fine

    Man. People wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or what? Some grumpy commenters up in here!

    Maybe Sony just became complacent about their position in the market and while they were patting each other on the back, other companies slowly, but surely, began to take market share.

    When I was buying a new TV recently, the Sony brand wasn't in the top 3. Samsung, LG, then Panasonic. The Playstation brand is the only Sony brand I am loyal to. But they even managed to fuck that up by letting exclusives slip through their grasp.

      'When I was buying a new TV recently, the Sony brand wasn’t in the top 3. Samsung, LG, then Panasonic.'
      And that is the point of the article.
      If Sonys low end equipment were under a different brand, then Sony might be in your top 3, or your top 3 would expand to 4 to include Sony.

        The idea you have to divide your brand up so people know the crap from the gold seems odd to me. Samsung doesn't have 2 brands: one good one shit. LG doesn't either. Those brands themselves are trustworthy and reliable. Sony isn't. They're way overpriced. They still think they're name means something. It doesn't.

    This is old news. Anybody buying a television 15 years ago could have told you having SONY written on it was less important than it was 5 years before that. Sony stopped being the mythical tech messiah when they shipped production of their high end TV's to China in the 90's. At that point there wasnt much difference between a $1800 67cm Sony and a $900 78cm Teac.

    Is anyone else thinking of going out on Kony 2012 poster night and putting up sony posters?

    When were many of Sony's products shit again? Apart from dome overpriced stuff I can't even think of a product that shouldn't be proud to wear the logo. And hey I'm no fanboy this is just the reputation I hear about .

      Agreed, great products, wrong pricing. And its why they are making operational losses. They have wayyy to much overhead for a tech company manufacturing out of China. They need to lose some high priced pencil pushers to bring that down to bring competitve pricing back. They do that, its all green dollar signs.

    The current problem with Sony is that none of the stuff they make is the best of it's kind anymore. They're a middling manufacturer of lots of things but nothing they make for the mass market anymore is iconically Sony. They've now gone down the path of the Toshiba's, Philips ' and JVC's all of whom were once leaders in cetain fields in certain eras but are now shadows of their former selves. The biggest problem they face is that general public don't care about paying for the Sony brand anymore for items they once did as there are so many more cheaper brand alternatives for everything Sony makes. Whos buying a Vaio or Bravia when there much more inexpensive versions of both kinds of products that have essentially the same performance to the average joe?

      I have owned enough disappointing Sony products over the years that I haven't bought anything except playstations for ages. during my short lived car audio hobby Sony were making the poorest quality equipment on the market, for the price at least, and I've stayed away from them in that area since. I've also owned 3 phones over a period of 3 years from them, first was a fairly high end ericcson that had the terrible joysticks on them that would fail after a few months, then I had another base model ericcson that was a slow pile of crap and lastly I had a fifty dollar Sony clamshell phone purchased from a servo that lasted all of 3 months before it would turn itself off intermittently, and I was very careful with it. it's cheap shit products like these that have slowly chipped away at the consumer's perception of the Sony brand itself.

    So PlayStation might be a successful brand, but isn't that business unit bleeding money?

    Of course, Sony could always synergise with other existing brands with established reputations and still work their own name in there- it could work from both sides.

    My Little Sony, for example.

    This is spot on, and I think Sony are trying to convince people that they're Samsung, but without the absolutely gigantic behemoth of random industry strongholds to back it up. You're not fooling anyone Sony, your logo looks weak and it's everywhere. Like how Nike used to (and lost their meaning too).

    And I am blindly in love with Sony!

    I disagree with the premise of the article. I believe that Sony are genius with there branding. Sony derives so much business of people that buy on brand name alone. Sony has yes only few high end products but those are what people associate the brand with. Sony's high end buffs up there low end products on name alone.

    I go can and buy the cheapest sony camera I can have this conversations.
    Me: " hello there, I just purchased a new camera"
    Random: "any good?"
    Me: "yeah it's like 12 megapixel and it's sony"
    Random: "oh cool"

      That's nice...

      Shoppers are much more savvy than you are giving them credit for. Folk read reviews and do their research before making major purchases now. Sony can't survive by simply hoping people still think their brand is associated with quality.

      Plus, their "high end" products are no better than their competitors, but more expensive. If they were way out in front then there could be an argument there, but they aren't.

      Sony has filed losses for 4 years in a row because something is toxic at that company. I think it might be arrogance.

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