Thursday, May 03, 2007

Update on the Sony Goat Debacle

Both myself and Flatland Pastor had some strong words about Sony's goat-based marketing yesterday. But was it really such a bad idea from Sony's perspective?

Globe and Mail: Sony 'slaughters' goat. Apologizes all the way to the bank.

Sure, this is "bad PR" but it got God of War on the front page of one of Britain's biggest newspapers and it's all over the Internet today.
Yes, many people will think badly of Sony for a day or two. But few in the target audience (males in their teens and 20s) will be offended, and all this controversy will only sell more video games.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. It seems that companies are succumbing to the lowest denominator attention-whoring that characterizes individuals who are willing to do anything be on reality TV.

In a sense I suppose that apologies are the corporate version of celebrity rehab. If the spotlight strays from you for even one second, do something insane, and then issue a tearful apology, and promise to seek help for your problem.

On the bright side, at least this stunt was thematically related to the game they were promoting. It's not as if a Sony Playstation exec was arrested for impaired driving, or shaved their head, or got busted for shoplifting in an EB Games.

This time.

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Flatland Pastor said...

This is where our opinions diverge somewhat. While I can accept the promotion as a creative strategy to cut through the media din and get a message heard, I must contend that this type of advertising potentially does more damage in the long run. Sony spent most of its corporate history developing an international presence and character that presented a cohesive entity. All Sony products were quality products because they were Sony. The successes of the company in specific divisions became the successes of the company worldwide. This wasn't always perfectly executed, but I can clearly remember Sony of Canada's VP Ted Kawai saying that "Sony is a family." at more than one retail managers' convention. His contention was that our efforts always reflected on the whole corporation.

At one particular convention in Victoria a new advertising campaign was previewed for the first time. It was quite humorous by being irreverent towards Sony - I liked it - but Mr. Kawai was not impressed and he expressed his view to the whole gathering and I quote him again here, "Sony is no joke."

I don't believe the campaign was necessarily wrong or a bad idea. I could even imagine Mr. Kawai being brought to understand and accept it, but that effort hadn't been made. What stood out for me in all of this was how deeply Mr. Kawai felt about his company and how strongly he was willing to defend the brand's reputation. I found that laudable and it made me a bit prouder to be a Sony employee.

Many people choose not to do business with corporations for a wide range of reasons - surprisingly, ethics is becoming a more prevalent reason these days. I can't believe that the potential profits of one video game - the product of one division and a short-lived product at that in terms of sell-through - outweigh in the minds of Sony's international management the potential damage to the brand's reputation this promotional event produced - especially in this day and age of pervasive media. If that is the view of Sony's upper management and they are willing to go in this direction then they have become more short-sighted in less than 20 years than I could ever have possibly imagined.

My disappointment if this is the case will pass, but so will some of my former pride and honor associated with having been part of Sony. Well, as you point out Lee, there's still Toshiba, Hitachi and Panasonic.

Ultimately I guess I'm not very sophisticated when it comes to business. I still hold to the core principle that how business is done matters.

Lee_D said...

FP, I don't think that you and I are in disagreement. I was attempting to turn down the volume on my sarcasm, and it might have not shone through as much as it normally does.

So much for the gentle touch.

As you might infer from my loaded allusion to attention whoring and reality TV, I don't have much patience with the media trend of screaming to make yourself heard. As a culture, we all get a little dumber every day having to listen to the lowest common denominator with the volume turned all the way up.

Flatland Pastor said...

Hear, hear. Yes, I think we are on the same page.

Why on earth do you suppose Sony would even want to do something so weird?