Showing posts with label Sony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sony. Show all posts

Friday, June 24

Integrating Communication: Pottermore

J.K. RowlingIf you want to see integrated marketing at its best, consider the Pottermore campaign. With anticipation already building for the final movie installment and fans expressing bittersweet feelings at the thought that their favorite series was coming to a close, J.K. Rowling has given them something new to savor.

"I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation," she said. "I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have."

And there's the linchpin to the buzzup, enough so that even entering an email address for upcoming registration announcements can take some time. (Some fans report that they attempted to register for 5 and half hours before their email was accepted.) The new site will allow fans to help expand the world of Harry Potter along with Rowling in October.

The site, which is being developed by Sony in cooperation with Rowling, is packed with ideas — some shopping oriented (an exclusive place to purchase e-books) and some interactive. The interactive portion includes registered members being asked questions by the Sorting Hat (placing newcomers in Hogwarts houses) and a Wand Chooser (which selects one of 33,000 possibilities).

That's for starters. Rowling will apparently add to the Harry Potter legend and, in contrast to some previous brush ups, encourage fan-generated art, stories, etc. (At the same time, it may also help the copyright holders to corral infringements.)


An Integrated Approach To Maketing: Pottermore.

• Press conference at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. (Traditional Publicity)

• Detailed electric press kit with preview pictures and pictures of the author. (Traditional PR)

• Shareable direct video message (although stiff) from the author on YouTube. (Digital Media)

• Early email page registration page for Pottermore, which also includes the video. (Direct Response)

• Upcoming contest where registrants will compete for one of 1 million spots to beta test the site. (Promotions)

• Cohesive position statement, carried forward across all promotion efforts. (Advertising)

• Dedicated timeline of events, stretching the campaign from the movie release through October. (Marketing)

• Full social media program including Twitter and Facebook. (Social Media)

• Full existing asset support from various fan forums and other online assets. (Co-Op Marketing)

• Dovetail marketing awareness generated by traditional movie marketing efforts, including television. (Traditional Advertising)

Integrated Marketing Makes The Allure Of Interactive Seem Fresh.

The concept of interactive stories (and online gaming) isn't new. Neal Stephenson, author of the Diamond Age was working with fellow author Greg Bear to cowrite a subscription-based historical novel about Genghis Khan conquests. The online story also includes interactive and participatory storytelling.

But what sets the Pottermore campaign apart is in the simplicity of the message (it's not littered with creativity) and integration of the marketing. Everything lines up and it works together. There is no need to think of every tiny piece as something that makes a marketing to-do list as Eric Brown recently proposed. No, there is no addition or subtraction of elements.

Everything that works is included. And if something doesn't work as well, there are some contingencies in the wings. For example, the Facebook presence seems largely overdone, with no clear path for fans to know which one to choose (other than by language, I mean). But consolidating those pages will be easy enough, especially after Pottermore fully launches in October.

By the way, I didn't include every marketing element in the hot list above. Sony has several more in play. The ones on the bullet list were chosen primarily to illustrate how elements of the campaign touch different communication principles.

Who's in charge? Having worked with Sony on a campaign before, my guess is that no one team member has any more authority than another (although directors do have oversight). Instead, everybody brings ideas to the table. And that's smart.

Monday, May 24

Establishing Reputation: A Holistic Approach To Business

Every year, Reputation Institute looks at how the general public rates 1,000 companies in over 20 industry categories in more than 25 countries, making Global Reputation Pulse the largest study of reputation in the world. Most of the work focuses on how companies perform in their home countries, but an article in Forbes today highlights 28 companies with international merit.

The Top Ten Brands By Reputation.

1. Google (United States)
2. Sony (Japan)
3. The Walt Disney Company (United States)
4. BMW (Germany)
5. Daimler (Germany)
6. Apple (United States)
7. Nokia (Finland)
8. IKEA (Sweden)
9. Volkswagen (Germany)
10. Intel (United States)

Microsoft just missed the top ten. And there are many great companies that round out the full list of the 28 most reputable companies. The study was based on several factors, including products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, financial performance, and leadership.

Understanding What Reputation Really Means.

One of the most common mistakes in business is to use two terms — brand and reputation — interchangeably. (The same can be said for brand and identity.) The confusion has become more pronounced in recent years, in part, because some social media experts frequently combine identity, brand, and reputation. So let's dispel some of the mystery.

There isn't much reason to reinvent an answer in this case. Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles clarified brand and reputation well enough in 2008.

They defined brand as a “customer-centric” concept that focuses on what a product, service, or company has promised to for its customers and what that commitment means to them. In short, it's the total net sum of all positive and negative impressions about a company based largely upon the consumer-company relationship.

Reputation, on the other hand, is a “company-centric” concept that focuses on the credibility and respect that an organization has among a broad set of constituencies. This would include everyone: employees, investors, regulators, journalists, local communities, and customers. And, it would include all those factors cited by the Reputation Institute.

If you need an example to help drive the difference home, Walmart is one of the best companies to consider. It frequently scores high as one of the best known brands, but its reputation often serves as its primary detractor. It will always be that way for Walmart until the company holds itself to a higher standard.

What It Takes To Establish A Strong Reputation.

1. Product/Service. The ability to deliver on a brand promise — products and services — is paramount to establishing legitimacy. It's one of the primary reasons Google sucked some of the air out of Yahoo as search stewards. As Yahoo bought companies and rebranded them to the central brand, it also inherited and transposed product and service issues. Sometimes it worked out okay with platforms like Flickr, but it suffered the opposite fate with platforms like MyBlogLog. Google, on the other hand, saw its reputation soar as it transformed its acquisitions into Google culture.

2. Brand & Identity. While reputation, brand, and identity are different, they work in tandem. While the products and services may have differentiation, the ability to communicate that differentiation makes all the difference. Apple is paticularly good at this by demonstrating its minimal design elements and innovation virtually with everything it does, right down to the people we expect to see behind the counters of any Apple retail outlet.

3. Advertising. While anyone can argue the finer points of whether social media has circumvented the traditional principles of advertising, it's still the primary source of message delivery. Advertising, more than any other discipline, communicates the brand promise, establishes the identity, and attracts enough attention to create sales opportunities. Sure, sometimes advertising drives sales, but mostly it focuses on everything else.

4. Public Relations. While some people might take exception to seeing public relations follow advertising, there is some truth to the idea. Public relations (and this includes but is not limited to the art of media relations) works to have other groups — ideally employees (via internal communication), investors, regulators, journalists, local communities, and customers — to adopt and believe in the brand promise. To do it, public relations professionals need to assist in creating an environment of mutual trust.

5. Corporate Citizenship. Great companies do not operate within a void. They generally consider corporate philanthropy part of their culture. Even small localized companies can learn from larger companies in that if the community isn't economically viable, healthy, vibrant, and provides a better quality of life, then it will wither. And with it, so will sales within that community.

When you add it all up and look to some of the best run companies in the world, you might sometimes come away with the feeling that those scoring highest on the reputation charts seems to have it all or, at least, very close to it. In some ways they do. But what's even more important to consider it that any company (or individual) can have it all too. It's a choice.

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Wednesday, May 5

Playing Catch Up: Olympus Cameras

Despite a steady decline in online conversations about cameras as most tech buzz is about testing for kinks in Apple's armor (yawn), the hierarchy of camera manufacturers remains unchanged. As conversations move, they all move together with no one really making gains or losing ground.

When you look at the landscape, Canon and Nikon lead the pack, with Sony in the ball park (mostly because the general brand name gives it a boost). Somewhere on a lower plane are the next three: Olympus, Samsung, and Panasonic. It has been this way for some time, with Canon and Nikon as camera market share leaders.

The reason is pretty obvious. Nikon and Canon made an early push into social media, seeing the significance in an online world that loves photos. Olympus missed the window, and has been playing catch up for a year. It might take ten.

To do it, Olympus tapped Mullen to develop a 10-step solution for social media. I've listed the steps, but you can read the rationale on Mullen's 10-Step Social Media Plan For Olympus.

Mullen's 10-Step Social Media Plan For Olympus.

1. Make A Commitment.
2. Define The Community.
3. Determine Objectives.
4. Engineer A Presence.
5. Build A Following.
6. Inspire Participation.
7. Get Attention.
8. Mobilize Community.
9. Measure Results.
10. Keep going.

Yep. There are some critical elements missing. There are some steps patently out of order. And with the exception of a stated commitment, I don't understand why they are still going through the motions. It's a scripted tried-and-tired social media plan.

Unfortunately for some, social media is adaptive. In fact, about the only thing that hasn't changed is that social media skews toward front runners. Nobody likes that fact, but it makes sense. It's news when you launch the first social media campaign in an industry. It's not news when you launch the first campaign for a company.

So, how does this plan execute? Here we go.

The Latest Pitch For Olympus.

The latest pitch for Olympus from Mullen is pretty standard fare. It consisted of a faux personalized hype e-mail about a "pretty awesome contest" that they call blogger outreach. Oh, golly gee. They told be about a contest and that it would be perfect for my creative-minded readers. Um, that would be you? And it might even be perfect for me. Ho hum. Not me. I get paid to do that stuff.

So here is the skinny minus the hype (and there is plenty of hype). You shoot a video (probably with a Flip or Sony or whatever) about what you would do if you had the new Olympus PEN E-PL1 and a $5,000 budget. Then upload it to YouTube. The pitch says that the Olympus community will pick the finalists. From those six, they receive an all-expense paid trip for two to New York, where whatever they shoot with the $5,000 budget will be displayed at the U.S. Open. Pretty simple.

A Few Areas Where Things Get Muddled.

Let's start with the contest voters. They say the community will judge it so it might make sense to know who this community might be.

Well, you won't find social media links on the Olympus Web site, but you can find a community of sorts. It would include 5,700 people on Facebook, 500 members on Flickr, 500 subscribers on YouTube, and 4,100 folks on Twitter. If we skew for multiple account holders, it might consist of 7,000 (some of whom know each other). Okay, it's small. If you're new, it's a disadvantage.

No worries. As it turns out, the Olympus community doesn't really pick the winners. Only the YouTube account holders vote. And those voters won't vote for 20 semi-finalists. They only influence who might make it the final six.

So how does it really work? The six finalists will be determined by judges based on creativity, quality, and contest theme. YouTube members will still get to vote, but their votes only count for 49 percent of the tally. The same goes for determining a finalist, except the finalist videos will be about what finalists did with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and $5,000 budget. The finalists have about a month (maybe two or three weeks depending on how fast they get the camera) to complete for the prize.

If you poke around, you'll also discover that the community is young, with the number one question about the contest being tied to the age requirement. Most can't enter. What they don't ask about is the total prize, which includes two lenses, a stereo mic, extra battery, and camera bag for a estimated retail value of $6,200. That's not bad, along with $5,000 cash.

If you're wondering why there is an emphasis on the U.S. Open, a quick search reveals that Olympus is a sponsor. Otherwise, there is no connection to the contest.

Chances For A Social Media Win With This Contest.

While anything can happen online (sometimes marketers get lucky), the chances of Olympus gaining ground with this contest is marginal. Sure, Olympus cameras usually have an advantage for lightweight travel and stabilization built into the camera body, but Nikon and Canon dominate every other category, including the pro line, market share, ISO performance, and expandability.

But beyond that, the problems can be found in the approach. There are plenty, but we'll stick with the basics today.

1. Olympus started out of the social media gate slow because it entered the game so very, very late. But worse, it's relying on contests to introduce products to a community that just doesn't exist. Seriously, with the exception of huge brands, contests work better as an engagement tool than an introduction vehicle (unless the prize is HUGE or the community is established).

2. Olympus didn't compensate for the lack of community by leaning on the networks or communities where they participate. Specifically, this contest could receive a boost from three groups: YouTube members (assuming it's heavily promoted), amateur photographers (since pros have settled on Nikon or Canon or both), and tennis fans.

3. Coincidently, this also underpins one of several problems with the ten steps from Mullen. If they had laid out all of the assets and defined their objective first, these three audiences (maybe more) would have been obvious.

4. It seems pretty clear that the primary objective is pinned to generating "awareness." Almost every seasoned communicator ought to know by now that awareness is not objective. In one case, Mullen even counted a "See Also" link mention as an actual "awareness" result.

5. It seems likely Mullen adopted the very trendy "load and launch" approach to social media at the start. They call it engineering a presence. But basically, they chose a few popular platforms and launched accounts. This tactic also forces the social media team to build four communities at once with no central hub. Really, entering social media almost always works better one platform at a time because a percentage of your first platform will help populate the second, and so on.

6. There is also too much emphasis on influencers. While almost every program includes some influencer consideration, over emphasizing influencers inserts too much emphasis on building relations with "seemingly" popular people. If you're lucky, they write what you want them to write about. If you're not, they write about the campaign. Worse, it positions someone between the consumer and the product. Think about that.

Conclusions Before A Living Case Study.

Hey, I'm all for being wrong. And maybe I am. The only way to be sure is to track the results as part of a living case study, with this post serving as the backgrounder and indication of how far Olympus has to go to gain any ground. It looks uphill.

However, if you are interested in the contest, you can find the details on the GetOlympus YouTube Channel. Just make sure you watch both videos. The videos have a weird early 90s throwback vibe, which is probably the only time I owned an Olympus camera. More importantly, you'll discover another problem. I don't think they know who their audience really is.

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Tuesday, January 6

Saving Sony: Social Media?

In June 2008, Sony presented several initiatives designed to build on its previous three-year revitalization plan. Six months later, reaching even some of these goals seems further way than ever.

• Expand PC, Blu-ray-related products and component/semiconductor businesses while joining the LCD TVs, digital imaging, and mobile phone markets; which all seems contrary to rumors that Sony will abolish "several major divisions."
• Ensure 90 percent of its electronics product categories are network-enabled and wireless-capable by the fiscal year ending March 2011, which seems to be born out of necessity over innovation.
• Roll out video services across key Sony products by 2010-11, which started with the launch of the PlayStation Network despite some obvious trouble.
• Double annual revenue from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries by 2010-11, which is another goal that seems dampened by Microsoft.

Since, Sony cut 16,000 permanent and temporary jobs worldwide, simultaneously expecting profits to be down 50 percent compared to last year. And even while Sony announced it did not plan to introduce additional restructuring measures, the writing keeps popping up on the digital wall.

Can Social Media Help Save Sony?

In an effort to directly connect and converse the public (and perhaps regain control over its apparently errant communication), Sony Electronics is placing its faith in social media. Today, it launched a new social site — housing the company's blog, videos, photos, polls, and consumer profiles. The rushed launch coincides with the Consumer Electronics Show.

"The Sony blog has enabled us to speak frankly and directly with our customer base and the public at large, not only in the U.S. but around the world," said blog host Rick Clancy, senior vice president of corporate communications, Sony Electronics Inc., before the site was truly live. "Now we're looking to make the blog the cornerstone of a more interactive community site that provides people with the opportunity to talk to us and to each other about their opinions, experiences and observations with respect to Sony, our products, the industry and even our competitors."

But does it really? While it looks great, there is just something missing from a pre-launch post written by "Sony Admin," who purchased DSC-W130 in pink to tame his precocious daughter. Transparency, which probably isn't needed at Sony as much as authenticity, is only believable when it comes from a person with a real name.

Sure, sure, Sony is still in beta. But it really is difficult to relate to an ambiguous "Admin" handle who shares personal stories. "Admin" posts are better left to generic content whereas, if the author really is Clancy, he might as well use his real name. After that, he can get his company to pitch in on products so he doesn't have to "buy" them for those future cameo posts.

Much sharper than the blog is the community hub section. Backstage 101 is dedicated to helping people learn how to use products; The Digital Darkroom is a photo gallery site to share photos with others; Frontline is an online research community where you can provide feedback to Sony through online surveys, panels, polls and focus groups; and Voice your Opinion promises to allow consumers to do exactly that about Sony products.

Yes, the categories are a bit awkward, but I expect they'll shift quite a bit while the site remains in beta. Eventually, I imagine that the company's classifications will be replaced by the way consumers think, which will place product sections — eg. I have a camera — front and center. Frontline and Voice Your Opinion can be consolidated to make room for such a move.

In addition to its on-site efforts, Sony is also promoting itself with several other social media accounts, including: a push PR Twitter account, Facebook page, Flickr account, and YouTube.

The Flickr and YouTube accounts appear to be the most promising of the bunch. They deliver the best of what you might expect from Sony whereas the Twitter account reinforces that the company behind this social media move has never been known for being upfront in its communication. That fact alone might even make a few mistakes along the way forgivable.

Sony Social Promises To Mix Slick And Silly

Mistakes? Yep. Expect them. For instance, in an effort to initiate engagement, Sony is asking for help in naming the new community site and encouraging consumers to submit their ideas. According to Clancy, his favorite name so far is "Sony No Baloney." Um, right.

If authenticity is going to be part of any social media arrangement, you cannot force it. Most would agree that this blog has a better chance of being renamed "The Sausage House" than Sony would picking "Sony No Baloney" for the banner of its new social media effort. Then again, it's the silly stuff like this that makes Sony our first living case study of 2009.

While there is plenty of potential, it's also painfully apparent Sony intends to struggle through social media all in beta. And considering we had the new release in hand several hours before "Sony Admin" had a "Sony's New Community Site Goes Live" post up, we anticipate some oddness now and again in the year ahead. Let's just hope in what seems to be a sincere effort to adopt some of the so-called "new rules of social media" that Sony doesn't break its own brand in the process.

Wednesday, November 19

Removing Customers: They Don't Want You

Ever since Blu-Ray started selling 100 units for every 98.71 units of HD-DVD last year, the writing was on the wall. There was going to be change. And for some, change for the sake of change would be painful.

Earlier this year, Netflix sent some consumers in a tail spin after announcing that it will carry high definition videos in the Blu-Ray format backed by Sony and others, but not in the HD-DVD standard once backed by Toshiba. Today, in what appears to be a licensing deal gone temporarily wrong as opposed to an answer to Microsoft's Xbox Live campaign, the Xbox 360 will not stream Sony Columbia Pictures Films. (Sony Pictures Entertainment movies are still available.) Sony Columbia Pictures Films doesn't want Xbox 360 customers.

Did you get all that? Netflix didn't want Toshiba customers. Now, Sony Columbia Pictures doesn't want Netflix customers, at least not those using an Xbox 360. And, long term, it seems doubtful Netflix will want Blu-Ray customers because the adoption rate is less than stellar.

Sure, Netflix remains vigilant in communicating that the company's current business strategy is still firmly rooted in DVD technology, but most weeks it communicates a growing number of streaming deals. However, when you compare a few choice quotes from Netflix, they don't add up:

"There are 100 million DVD players in U.S. households. If you really think people are going to stop renting DVDs, you need to lie down until that thought passes.” — Barry McCarthy, CFO, Netflix.

"As watching instantly becomes a more prominent part of the Netflix service, our goal is to have all of our streaming content licensed for all of our partner devices. We're doing well in this area, but it will take some time before we fully achieve that goal." — Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications, Netflix.

More and more, it seems electronic companies keep asking consumers to replace hardware at a dizzying pace just so they can replace all their media content once again (just in time for the next new hardware) or, perhaps long term, only allow them to borrow content from time to time for a monthly subscription price model that made cable companies profitable.

So what are they really saying? Your children's children won't know what a DVD is (or Blu-Ray for that matter) and they might not know what a book is either. While we keep aiming to make content more portable, the side effect might be that content becomes increasingly controlled and temporary. That will be painful. But as mentioned, change for the sake of change is always painful.


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