Sony started as a radio repair shop, founded by Masuru Ikura and Akio Morita after World War II. The company began its long history of producing compact consumer electronics in 1957, when it introduced the world’s first pocket-sized all-transistor radio. The company’s name, Sony, was taken from sonus, the Latin word for “sound.” Sony went on to invent a series of transistor-based TVs and increasingly smaller audiocassette recorders. In 1979, the Sony Walkman introduced the world to a new, portable way of listening to music. Sony became a world leader in consumer electronics and was the first Japanese company to have its shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In the late 1980s, Sony began expanding into media, purchasing a U.S. record company (CBS Records for $22 billion in 1988) and a major Hollywood studio (Columbia Pictures for $4.9 billion in 1989). The purchases made Sony a major force in the entertainment industry. The importance of marketing at Sony started with Akio Morita, who said that for a company to be successful, it must have three kinds of creativity: creativity to make inventions, creativity in product planning and production, and creativity in marketing.
Creativity in marketing at Sony means not just clever ads, but deep insight into its customers. For example, Sony knows its PlayStation customers like to find clues and to decode things. So Sony’s ads for PlayStation 2, like “Signs,” feature a young man walking the streets of a city where he encounters various signs foreshadowing the events. Mannequins appear in a store window, arms outstretched, and point enigmatically to something that’s about to happen. “The lead character is almost in the midst of his own role-playing game. He needs to follow clues to save the heroine,” said Andrew House, Sony’s executive vice president of marketing. In the ads, “we were essentially trying to tap into a range of emotions that we think we deliver in the games—intrigue, foreboding, excitement,...
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