Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article about the decline of Sony. It really is shocking how far the company has fallen. Sony hasn’t made a profit since 2008. According to the article, the company is now worth one ninth of Samsung and one thirtieth of Apple. You can read the article here:
The article highlights a number of problems at Sony including a lack of innovation and a dysfunctional corporate culture.
I think the article didn’t spend enough time on one of the most critical issues: Sony’s brand. There is a simple branding problem at Sony; the brand lacks meaning.
What precisely is Sony? I suspect most people would say it is a quality Japanese electronics company. But this isn’t differentiating in a world full of quality electronics companies.
Sony is an example of what happens when a company falls blindly in love with its brand. Sony uses its brand on all sorts of products: televisions, cameras, computers, music players, digital book readers and toys. In a remarkable move, several years back Sony decided to use the brand on a movie studio and on a music label. Sony’s high-end products carry the Sony brand. The low-end products carry the Sony brand, too.
After all this, the brand gets watered down; it loses meaning, becoming a fine but not distinctive player in the electronics world. This is a problem.
One of the few successes at Sony has been PlayStation, a business that built a distinct brand. PlayStation is a unique and special brand. Sony isn’t.
As the executives at Sony work on the latest turn-around plan, a top priority should be rebuilding the Sony brand, doing so in a way that makes it unique and special. The “all things electronic to all people” clearly hasn’t worked out too well.