Sony Ericsson: conversing with the consumers

By Antara Ghosal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | April 28, 2010
The mobile handset brand promotes its new range of products through a multi media campaign with focus on digital

Sony Ericsson, the mobile handset maker, is back in the news with its new product range and its recently signed brand ambassador, Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor, testifying for it.

The multi media campaign includes TV commercials, outdoor campaigns, print ads and digital initiatives. The TVC shows Kapoor, who has been absent from the digital space due to her work schedule, staying in touch with her fans, friends and family 24x7 through her Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.

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24X7 connectivity through social networking - isn't the formula done to death? Sony Ericsson, however, claims to have more to it. "We are not simply providing connectivity. The simplest of our handsets can provide connectivity. What we are offering this time is the way to integrate all your communications in one platform and use it as per your ease," explains Anurag Kontu, head, channel marketing, APAC and head, marketing, India, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.

According to Kontu, the brand already has a strong positioning in the entertainment space, especially in terms of imaging and music. Now, it has converged all of that with the facility of social networking in a single platform, so that consumers don't need to choose multiple devices for multiple functions.

Operating in the super cluttered Indian telecom segment, where new players keep popping up every other day and compete for every square inch of space, is a huge task in itself. To be more specific, in 2009 in India, new vendors registered a combined market share of 12.3 per cent of the total mobile handset sales of 101.54 million units, as per data provided by KPMG.

In fact, the number of such new vendors in the Indian mobile handsets market grew to 28 and together, they garnered 17.5 per cent of the total sales for the first time during October-December, 2009.

Speaking about Sony Ericsson's strategy, Kontu says, "We don't play in the crowded segment of the market. We have a very clear direction of not playing below the Rs 3,000 segment. It sets us apart from the crowd, which operates below the Rs 3,000 benchmark. For the ones above this line, we differentiate ourselves from them in terms of style of products and the applications."

He adds, "Sony Ericsson in its own right has done very well in many markets such as Asia Pacific. It has been the No. 1 brand in Taiwan and Singapore. This is the kind of success story we want to build upon in India, although here, a big share is that of an emerging market which is mostly addressed by the below Rs 3,000 level players. Excluding this, we have been among the top three brands in the market and will continue to do so."

The brand, which is targeting consumers from all walks of life, is banking upon its marketing initiatives to reach out to its consumers. Although Kontu didn't share the exact marketing spends, he did mention that Sony Ericsson's investment is among the top five players in the segment.

According to Kontu, the brand plans to strike a balance in its media usage, with special focus on the digital medium. "Digital has become so important for us because we realise that our consumers, who are new age digital junkies, live and breathe in this space. This is where we can get hold of them," states Kontu.

"We are making significant investment in the digital marketing space by allocating 25 per cent of our overall marketing spends in it. We are not just restricted to banner ads but are engaging with our consumers and leveraging our brand ambassador to make full use of this space," Kontu adds.

Also, the brand is bringing upon the entertaining aspect by partnering with MTV Asia Pacific, and UTV and Hungama TV in India. It is also aligning its distribution system and coverage within the country. "This is just a beginning, more is to come from our end," says a confident Kontu.

Kontu adds that all its communications from now on will be completely consumer centric in nature, striking a conversation with them.

Incidentally, the brand had recorded a negative growth of 49 per cent year on year by the end of 2008-09 in the absence of any attractive product after the Walkman series (according to KPMG data). In India, the data says, Sony Ericsson had a turnover of Rs 3,083 crore in 2007-08. It fell to Rs 1,554 crore in 2008-09, according to V&D estimates.

It may be recalled that Sony Ericsson was the handset market leader, after Nokia. However, Samsung's touch screen devices, Qwerty phones and Smartphones drove its sales in India, leaving Sony Ericsson behind.

Currently, Nokia has the largest share (54.1 per cent) in terms of units sold during calendar year 2009. Samsung (9.7 per cent share) and LG (6.4 per cent share) were at No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively for the year ended December 31, 2009. With a market share of 6 per cent in India, the brand is looking forward to reviving its fate with feature rich multimedia phones.