Sony is embarking on a global push to breathe new life into its ailing mobile division by trumpeting a renewed focus on how its devices empower people to make their “everyday moments extraordinary”.
The Japanese technology business has long been a force in the consumer electronics business but 2014 was not exactly the best year for its mobile division. Slow sales and a pared back smartphone range fuelled rumours that the mobile business would be sold off though Sony had other ideas.
Having realised it can’t afford to lose a business that keeps it ever present in people’s lives, the company has concocted a new of way of bringing that dynamic to life through its marketing. “Discover the extraordinary in the everyday” is that concept, focusing its marketers on experience rather than product that seems to be the de rigueur for many consumer electronics players these days.
Fans can judge whether the strategy is the right fit for Sony when the campaign hits TV, outdoor and online today (2 April). The Adam & Eve DDB effort ticks all the right boxes; a slick, cinematic TV spot for its flagship Xperia Z3 smartphone alongside the obligatory campaign hashtag that will try to get people to share their own “extraordinary” ways of using the device next month.
Catherine Cherry, marketing director for North West Europe at Sony Mobile, told The Drum: “No one cares about the actual battery size [of a phone]. They care that a battery having a longer life means their phone still works at the end of the night. The idea of not showing the smartphone [until the end of the advert] is part of putting the customer at the forefront. Once you know what you can do with the phone then you’re interested in finding out how it works.”
Making fans feel a part of the campaign is how Sony hopes to get cut-through, rewarding its most vocal advocates with appearances in the global creative.
Seven supporters, plucked from forums, social networks and fan groups, grace outdoor and digital ads championing the seemingly cool things they can do on their Z3, whether it’s ‘seeing in the dark’ using the phone’s low light camera or ‘surviving underwater’ with the phone’s waterproof design. Each boast is preceded by the words “I Can” in the hope of crystalising how the phone’s features enable people to make a difference in their day-to-day lives.
Getting this message to the relevant people en masse has proved a sticking point for Sony, an issue it thinks it has addressed through what Cherry claimed is a “new planning approach”. Rather than prioritise scale, the company is targeting its existing users through a mix of programmatic ads and retargeting to show them different creative assets of the campaign.
While Cherry refused to share more for fear of revealing too much, she mentioned that alongside segmentation, attitudinal and demographic data, geographic targeting would also play a larger role in guiding spend.
“We’ve had a big project in the UK about really using insights to focus our marketing and planning on identifying our customers who are most interested in the brand as well as [those] most likely to want to be a part of [the campaign],” she added. “We’re using tools like [Experian’s] Mosaic and Facebook to really understand where customers are.”
The bulk of these efforts will push the Z3’s two-day battery life, its low light photography and waterproof design in the UK. However, the campaign is structured in such a way that Sony can dial up activity in other areas if needed. So if more people show an interest in its remote gaming feature on the phone, Sony will shift online spend toward inventory on gaming sites depending on who has been viewing its ads and where.
Cherry declined to reveal the cost of the campaign though said it is "in line" with previous efforts. It is a statement of intent from Sony, the fact that despite its troubles the business is prepared to try and muscle its way out with a more pointed marketing message to previous efforts.
The company’s devices have been well received by critics but failed to convince people to part with their cash. To address the disparity, Sony is chasing profits now rather than market share or gross sales, a move which is allowing its marketing to focus on its slimmed down Xperia line.
The phone’s popularity in the UK has secured a 10 per cent share of the market and number three ranking, claimed Cherry. Globally though, the business has been cast into the “others” category by research firm IDC’s figures on market share, way behind Samsung and Apple.
It sets the scene for a key period in the lifecycle of Sony’s mobile business. The campaign has to better articulate the brand’s positioning if it is to take its UK success global.