How SONY killed their brand? A case study

SONY brand

Large corporations need customers much more than vice versa, but SONY have been making the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons.

The Campfire blog (broken link removed, 2014) gives these surefire tips on how to kill your very own brand:

1. Treat your customers like criminals and install malicious software on their computers.

2. Create fake blogs that pretend to be consumer generated rather than honestly engaging people. (archive of Sony’s fake blog)

3. Attempt to bully new media outlets because they don’t blindly do your bidding rather than engaging in the conversation (broken link removed, 2014). (The comments are especially worth reading)

4. Spend a lot of time and money to stop your customers from using your products the way they want to use them.

5. Sit back and watch as consumers define your brand for you based on all of your actions:

Uploaded less than three weeks ago, video views have surpassed half a million on YouTube with more than 3,000 comments. It seems that the vast majority of gamers out there agree with the PS3 song.


23 responses

  1. Stunning piece of work by Sony. They used to have such a solid name, but now they’re just throwing it away.

    What are big corporations so scared of these days? They seem terrified that a bad review or post on a blog will destroy them somehow, so they go round gagging & threatening, and that bad news then travels twice as fast across the internet!

    Weird. Interesting post David, thanks.

  2. The biggest problem is the decline in quality control. Sony used to make rock-solid equipment and top-of-the-line audio products, but today things have a tendency to fall apart as soon as you take them out of the box (my own experience with two rather costly items).

    I go for Denon nowadays. They have that kind of consistent quality I used to get from Sony.

    And Sony rootkits, etc.?
    Don’t even get me started.

  3. This is intriguing on so many levels:
    whoever wrote the song has lyrical skills (decent singing ability) as well as knowledge of both the gaming industry and the importance of user satisfaction in branding. Design and size aren’t enough if you don’t listen and deliver what your market wants.
    Great find.

  4. It’s kind of sad to read about.

    When I was a child I thought that anything SONY was out of this world! I remember getting my first SONY walkman, for cassette tapes. The headphones even had a little slider on the cable to adjust the volume! Wow!

    I enjoyed watching the YouTube video. That’s what piqued my interest in this story and then I found the post on Campfire.

    Volkher, thanks for your first comment on my blog. No less thanks to Chris and Drew. :)

  5. Interesting post and vid. When the PS3 “borrowed” the motion sensitive controller from Nintendo, and reused the Spider-Man movie font for their system… I knew Sony was onto something or rather NOT. But aside from those things I haven’t been a big fan of Sony for some years now because of the quality of their products like someone else has mentioned as well.

  6. Damn, I’m out of the loop lol. I guess I haven’t really been keeping of with Sony so I haven’t heard any of these stories.

    I’d still want to get a PS3, but I’d get a 360 for Halo and a couple other games.

  7. Sony’s been busily engaging in “anti-engagement marketing,” a new subset of Engagement Marketing where you use Web 2.0 tools to destroy your brand rather than engage with customers around it.

    Brilliant… err… strategy. One for the case study books…

  8. Hey great discussion! Thanks for picking up my post and spreading it to your readers, David. Sony’s recent blunders have been simply jaw-dropping in my mind. Having been one of the guys behind The Blair Witch Project, marketers often come to us wanting to do something “stealth” and we always insist on transparency. People enjoy being entertained but they will not stand being lied to and there is a huge difference. Unfortunately, too many marketers haven’t figured that out yet.

  9. Just linked to your post –

    I hope people see this as a cautionary glimpse of what can happen

    Very powerful video world changing even.

    Thanks for putting it up. I heard about it from Paul Greenberg and Chris Carfi and yours was the first thing that came up on Google and Yahoo.

    Mei Lin

  10. What a great video. Amazing in fact. I love that it is not a dig at which ones better of the two consoles.

    I had a PS1 and PS2 but opted for a 360 this time purely because I didn’t like the way Sony bragged about PS3 being the best before it was even built.

    I really hope the Wii and 360 destroy Sony.

  11. Anyone know how to download this video? Where can I find the audio part as mp3? The video itself with audio. I’d love to put this on my iPod as a song.

  12. Well I found the audio for download and have it on my iPod now but still can’t get the video. Thanks for the help though (in trying to find it).

  13. Absolutely agree with your sentiment here, as companies become larger and larger they tend to be less in touch with their consumers, inevitable it leads them to become more distant with the needs of the consumer. Sony is aiming for a broad market rather than what Nintendo is doing, which is to attract a certain type of consumer. This Nintendo has a more loyal following and listhens to the feedback.

    Inevitably I think in future there will be more and more video games providers in the industry, catering for their own niche. Nintendo is focusing on gameplay and attracts audiences who want a simple machine with simple games. PC gamers want a more technical advanced gameplay, but Sony and Xbox are trying to fight it out for domination on a huge broad market.

  14. It is sad that Sony or rather $ony as I’d now call it has gone on such a destructive path in recent years — before Sony got into the entertainment business itself when it was only electronics it was a good company.

    Now they have to weigh the interests of their entertainment units (Sony BMG for music and Sony Pictures for movies and films) with their electronics team and to satisfy their video and music producing units Sony Electronics has started using DRM in their products to prevent users from using Sony content with their Sony devices the way they want.

    In the early 1990s and much of the 1980s everything I used was Sony.

    I have an old big screen Sony TV (and by that I mean its HUGE — this was before High Definition TVs even existed) that we don’t use anymore — we used to up till early this year and twice while we owned it the TV stopped working and we paid to repair it.

    Both repairs were needed and took place after some number of years of owning it — as time went by it began to have problems from old age.

    We also had a Sony Surround Sound system and I used to own a Sony Walkman cassette tape player. My dad used to have a Sony VAIO laptop with Windows until a few years ago. He still has a Windows PC laptop now but the brand has changed to Eureka.

    We recently upgraded to Hi Def TVs and we have a Full 1080P HD TV by Samsung in our family room and Panasonic Viera 720P TVs in all the bedrooms.

    I now use Apple iPods (first I had the 5th gen video iPod with click wheel and now a 2nd gen iPod Touch which I updated to iPhone OS 3.1) and have a Nintendo Wii and Apple TV.

    I do not need Blu Ray nor do I want it due to the draconian DRM and higher pricing Blu Ray has. I rip DVDs for Apple TV often rather than similarly buying iTunes protected content The more Sony pushes the PS3 as a Blu Ray player the less likely I am to want one.

    I never owned a PS1 or PS2 but would have to liked to have owned either of them but PS3 I would never buy. It has hidden costs. I remember when the PS3 first came out Sony sold it at full price $600 which was way to expensive and that didn’t even factor in third party accessory sales, or software sales of games for PS3 or Blu Ray movie sales. Blu Ray is expensive to manufacture which is why PS3 had that high price tag.

    Now they sell the PS3 at a loss to gain market share — despite PS3’s failure Blu Ray still bested HD DVD which I preferred due to it having less DRM.

    I’d rather stick with DVDs and get a new DVD Player capable of up-sampling my existing DVDs to Hi-Def.

    Sony has fallen way behind and lost its reputation and its brand. They lost their top spot in video game consoles and lost their dominance in portable music players long ago to Apple — now Microsoft is trying to beat Apple with their Zune players but have so far been unsuccessful as well in doing so.

    Here’s an interesting joke: Sony and Microsoft need to merge and become an even worse and bigger company.

  15. Just wanted to add not only has Sony lost its dominance in the video games console market with the PS3 but lost control of the portable music player market long ago thanks to Apple’s market leading iPOd line of mp3 players (both Microsoft’s XBox 360 and so far #1 console Nintendo Wii) have continuously outsold the PS3 for some time (Wii has recently started having problems with sales but been #1 on for many months earlier — XBox 360 and PS3 have had price cuts to stay competitive in hard times with fewer sales also) last I checked Wii still has more market share than either of the other 2 consoles but the other 2 consoles have started improving their sales over Wii (speculation was also there of a Wii price cut) about 6 days ago an article Speculation Over: Nintendo announces Wii price cut came out and said that Nintendo would cut the price of the Wii by $50.00 to $199.00 in U.S. and cut it by $60 in Canada to $219.00 so the long rumored Wii price cut also happened.

    Sony has a lot of problems today and the quality of their products is not as good as they used to be anymore. It is sad bur true and the fact they insist on treating their customers like criminals has led me to decide to stop buying Sony products in future (at least until they start making quality products again and stop mistreating their customers if that ever happens will resume buying Sony but right now seems like a long shot).

  16. It is sad that Sony has been on such a destructive path lately — it seems like a lot of big entertainment companies namely in the RIAA and MPAA think of using DRM to supposedly thwart piracy but its only encouraging more piracy as individuals get pirated copies of music and movies to avoid DRM (when you pay for media online to download it comes with DRM that’s the expectation) although for digital music now DRM free music purchases have arrived via iTunes Plus for shoppers of Apple’s iTunes Store and digital storefronts like Amazon MP3 and even Verizon VCast Music with Rhapsody by offering mp3 downloads for sale.

    Most audio CDs were also DRM free but video in analog VHS or DVD which uses digital technology while still a physical medium has copy protection (albeit a weak one) seems that content companies always want to blame piracy even when its not responsible.

    Lets say I’m in the movie making business and make $400 billion dollars last year — but I say those darn pirates if there was no piracy I could have made $700 billion.

    It amounts to greed due to corruption in our capitalistic system.

  17. Found this comment in a reader’s response to an article about the ridiculousness of the Sony PSP Go’s DRM over at a Techdirt article. Here’s the link to the Techdirt article:

    Sony’s problem is that it’s both a hardware company and a content company (Sony Pictures and Music). Thus it has a desire to make innovative and useful electronic devices for consumers. But then it also has the contradictory desire to lock them down to ensure that no one can actually use them in any meaningful way.

    Update: I heard last month (September 2009) Sony issued a 3.0 firmware update for the PS3 that bricked thousands of PS3 owners PS3 consoles which downloaded and installed the mandatory update and stopped working. A class action consumer lawsuit was started by a Florida resident whose PS3 stopped working after the 3.0 update when he contacted Sony for technical support and was told he had to pay up big time for repairs as his PS3 was out of warranty — it was Sony’s fault the PS3 stopped working altogether though — Sony ultimately issued a 3.0.1 update to fix the bugs but that caused even further issues with the Blu Ray drive on the PS3.

    I for one am tired of all the DRM by Sony. I’ve stopped buying Sony products altogether — including their content — no music or movies by Sony, or electronics products do I use anymore.

    Sony went wrong with their PS3 (its not like the XBox 360 is flawless it is by Microsoft another unethical company that has used its clout with its Windows and Office monopolies in the past to blackmail competitors to drop their products (Microsoft blackmailed Apple once to license the Mac’s GUI to MS for use in Windows before the Apple v Microsoft copyright case occurred or Microsoft would stop making Office for Mac; they tried to blackmail Apple again to dump QuickTime for Windows media playback and hand media playback to Microsoft. While they succeeded in getting Apple to license the GUI to the original Mac OS under pressure they failed to do so again for QuickTime. Microsoft Windows is already the dominant OS for PC gaming why allow them to dominate consoles also? Sure there are games for Mac OS X and Linux but there not as many as for Windows. Lately, since switching to Mac have been getting more games exclusively for Mac — considering running Linux also so got some Linux games.

    Said goodbye to Windoze Blue Screen of Death why would I get XBox 360 that has had Red Ring of Death errors? For some XBox fans 360 may be fine for them — and 360 in some ways is a better value than PS3 (PS3 is terrible) but 360 is not perfect either. I’m boycotting 360 and PS3.

    Sure I’d like HD graphics but don’t want more restrictive DRM.

    Sony has released updated Blu-ray, dvd, and audio discs that could not play in Sony’s own players. Does that make any sense? Not to a normal person. But the content industry has never been known for its normalcy.

  18. Found another video by Doc Adams on just how bad the PS3 is. Says one day hopefully Sony will remember the name of the product is Play Station not Pay Station! When they make it about the games again

    Sony has removed previous compatibility from PS3 — don’t need Blu Ray, just the games, they want too much for them, Sony needs to remove the crap from them; The second song is called No PS3 for Me!

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