Fuzzy brands and the decline of Sony

In April 2012, Sony had doubled its projected net loss for 2011 to 520 billion yen, Sony’s fourth year of consecutive losses. So where did this master of consumer electronics, communications and information technologies loose its way?

Sony is besieged by competitive challenge. While Chinese and Korean manufacturers snap at Sony’s ankles, commoditizing Sony’s baseline products, Apple crowds the skyline of growth.

In their day, Sony’s Walkman, Trinitron television and Playstation bedazzled us with their quality and forward thinking. Sony’s Memory Sticks seemed to be moving in the right direction, enabling the seamless movement of digital content across computing, music and photography. And while this all seemed bold, a combination of a fuzzy brand, and not being bold enough and consistently bold, has led to Sony’s demise.

Let us take a look under the bonnet at just where Sony has faltered.

As the Wall Street Journal says, “Sony’s brand, lacks cachet”. It has a product line that is crowded and confusing, with 10 different camcorders and 30 different TV’s, compare that to Apple’s simple product offering like ipads and iphones.

Unlike Apple, Sony is still stuck in the “hardware” features and benefits mindset and cannot articulate their vision at the level of a transformative change in their customers’ lives. In contrast, Apple’s products are defined by a clear brand that makes them radical, resonant, simple and flexible, allowing each individual to customize the Apple product for their own experience. Both Apple and their customers are clear about their product choice and their emotional connection to the brand.

Some say Sony’s failings were because Sony products were evolutionary not revolutionary, causing Sony to be eclipsed by more radical and emotionally resonant products. Some have speculated that infighting between turf protecting engineers, who could not work as a team for a united customer promise and experience, has been a key block to product revolution. Ahhh…once again I am hearing an undefined brand and culture, as the root cause of failure.

“The time for Sony to change is now”, says Mr Hirai, Sony’s CEO. Yes 10,000 job cuts are a change, but how will Sony change where it really counts, with the customer? Mr Hirai has announced Sony will focus on mobile devices, cameras and games, “oh” says me, “where is the customer experience in all this and the transformative impact on their lives?”

I am not alone in my view.

The new CEO is under fire for not being brave enough. Listen to a review of the new Sony strategy, “not gritty enough or bold enough” says the market.


Louise Kelly

Managing Director

Hearts and Minds


Founder Thought Leaders Circle


2 thoughts on “Fuzzy brands and the decline of Sony

  1. Pingback: Choice overwhelm is making brand simplicity reign « Thought Leaders Circle

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