Sony strikes a youthful chord

Sony Gulf’s new head honcho is upbeat and looking to target the youth market.

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By  David Ingham Published  April 7, 2004

|~|tamagawa.jpg|~||~|There’s a new managing director in charge at Sony Gulf, and amongst his key objectives are localising Sony’s marketing and reaching a younger age group. The Sony brand, Masaru Tamagawa believes, is well perceived and respected, but needs to be seen as “my brand” amongst the Arab audience. “The image they carry towards Sony is that it is prestigious, best quality… but many of the local Arabs don’t feel Sony is my brand,” explains Tamagawa. In response, Sony has formulated a brand development programme that aims to create more of a personal attachment with the Sony name. The initial result of that is a TV campaign that shows different generations of a family using Sony televisions. The idea is that a love of Sony products is passed on from father to son and then on to grandson. “The message I want to convey to the consumer is that Sony is, of course, the best quality TV,” says Tamagawa. “However, this emotional attachment is something that is passed on to the next generation. I want the best quality, just like my father.” When it comes to targeting youth, Sony also has some ideas up its sleeve. An agreement has been signed with Melody Channel, one of a current crop of highly popular interactive music channels. Melody, in particular, has built a large audience by allowing viewers to post SMS messages on a rolling ‘ticker’ at the bottom of the screen. Sony has bought up rights to air a programme on the channel, in which it will be able to showcase its products, but all done in a way that will appeal to a youthful audience. “We are planning to introduce some of our latest products, but not with a product oriented approach, more with a lifestyle oriented approach,” explains Tamagawa. To support projects like that, Sony has already embarked on a TV advertising campaign targeted at a more youthful audience. One of its adverts is designed to illustrate the connectivity between laptops, digital cameras and PDAs. To do this, the advert shows a group of undersea divers making a video clip of a whale swimming in the ocean. The divers then send this moving image to a friend (using a PDA, of course) who then turns the video clip into a full blown music video and dance track played to hundreds of young people in a night club. When pressed, Tamagawa admits that Sony is looking for a local brand ambassador, something that Samsung, Panasonic and Pepsi have done with great success. “We don’t have any particularly person yet, but after making the contract with Melody Channel we need a famous Arabic celebrity,” he says. Overall, Tamagawa reports that Sony’s consumer electronics business is in good shape. Annual growth is in the double digit percentage range, with digital cameras and camcorders, DVD and CD players, and IT products leading the way. His product set, which also includes televisions (both CRT and flat screen), notebooks and the Playstation business generates annual turnover in the region covered by Sony Gulf of about $800 million. He says comparisons with LG and Samsung are invalid because their regional territories are different and Sony’s number does not include mobile phones. One business that does not perform as well as it should in the Gulf for Sony is the Playstation business, but that is entirely down to piracy. Revenue from games sales is nowhere near in line with what the three million Playstation consoles in the Middle East should be generating. At the moment, Sony’s tie in-ratio (the number of games that each PS2 console owner buys) is around six worldwide. In the Middle East, that stands at just one because of piracy. Profits in the games console business come mostly from software sales. Sony is currently engaging with the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance and Tamagawa hopes that its activities, plus Gulf countries’ membership of the WTO, will lead to a big decline in games piracy. “Once it comes under control, there is huge room to increase the business on the software side,” he says.||**||

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