With an eye on smartphone pie, Sony Mobile rebrands

Retail push, youth TG focus, and looking at the tier II & tier III mkts are cornerstones of the rebranding strategy

e4m by Shree Lahiri
Updated: Sep 10, 2012 8:47 PM
With an eye on smartphone pie, Sony Mobile rebrands

With India being among one of Sony Mobile’s growth markets, a number of initiatives have been planned for the country. India is the third largest market for the company, after US and China. After the rebranding was announced in April, the company embarked on a number of marketing initiatives – including retail rebranding.

exchange4media spoke exclusively to Prasun Kumar, Marketing Head India, Sony Mobile on the massive retail rebranding exercise they are carrying out in India.

With Sony Mobile all set to phase out feature phones from India by September 2012, the focus has shifted to smartphones. “The smartphone strategy has strengthened the brand and this is evident in the last couple of quarters, when Sony grew faster than the market,” shared Kumar.

Retail engagement
The transition from Sony Ericsson to Sony Mobile was an extremely important step in the company’s evolution as a smartphone manufacturer, observed Kumar. The next obvious question as a marketer was, ‘if the consumer is aware then, what next?’ It would be retail engagement and that’s where the first step was to focus on the points of sale.

The smartphone is all about ‘experiencing’ and the experience can happen only at the point of sale, where someone can lay his or her hand on a handset and see what it is all about. “While retail engagement has been there as a concept, we now took it up as a strategic initiative within our marketing plan. We placed our products in stores to create a ‘Sony environment’, so that when you walk in there you have a distinct Sony experience – you can interact with the brand, see the technology, and notice how it is different from others,” explained Kumar.

It was important to stand out and engage with the consumer who shopped smartly, someone who could understand Experia, experience it and then take a conscious decision. It was for this, that the company undertook a retail rebranding exercise. “It was essential because what we are doing was not just a brand change – taking Sony Ericsson out and putting Sony Mobile in – we want to give a ‘Sony experience’ to the consumer from the time he or she enters the retail outlet,” shared Kumar.

In the retail outlets there are ‘in-shop promoters’ trained by Sony, who take potential customers through the journey. “I believe smartphone consumers are aware of smartphones and what they are looking for is a differentiating experience – all of which is a matter of demonstration. This is where our retail connect is going to deliver a differentiation for our brand,” said Kumar.

Other promotional materials are signages, posters, danglers, table tops, dispensers – all of which work as main reinforcement of the message. Social media will also be used.

The focus is to have a strong positioning by the festive season, so that when consumers start purchases, Sony Mobile would be in their circle of consideration. The effort is to sustain the momentum and reach out to new consumers and bring them into the fold.

Youth is the core TG
As a brand, Kumar pointed out that they clearly connect with the youth, who is their core TG. So this includes young professionals, evolved upwardly mobile segment, techie geeks, etc. And with 55 per cent of Indians falling into the young bracket, he felt they are rightly placed. Plus, the Sony Mobile portfolio is large and there is something for everyone, he further added.

Reaching out to tier II and tier III
“There’s a smartphone phenomenon penetrating deeper into our country,” said Kumar. He observed that if one takes every state in India and the district headquarters, there are 545 towns by default. Every state has commercial, industrial, education hubs coming up like Kota in Rajasthan, Visag in Andhra Pradesh – all such markets would be potential markets for Sony Mobile. Thus, it’s not just a metro phenomenon, but clearly a tier II trend and it will expand to tier III as well.

The deadline for the entire retail rebranding exercise is set for mid October 2012.

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