Sony Case Anlaysis

Again, this is for my Marketing on the Internet class...

Taking a look at sony.com, the way they choose to structure the many elements of Sony is interesting. While Sony mostly takes advantage of a branded house strategy, they also take a few pages out of the house of brands strategy. For example, on Sony's home page, you can easily get to any of their other departments. There are links for consumer and business electronics, Playstation, music & movies, online games, service & support, product registration, and shopping. So far, all the makings of a branded house strategy. However, once you begin to investigate Sony's other departments, the branded house strategy starts to break down into a mix of branded house and house of brands.

Sony has never been one to disguise a product as something other then Sony (Playstation and Blu-Ray might be the closest examples, but even those have the Sony name plastered everywhere). That said, it's hard to say that Sony is a true house of brands in the P&G sense (Tide, Pringles, Charmin, etc.) but if you take a look at the URL's for each of Sony's product divisions, the name changes. Instead of the URL being sony.com/shop, or sony.com/movies (typical branded house strategy) you have sonystyle.com (shopping) and sonypictures.com (movies & TV), which is more in line with a house of brands strategy. In that respect, Sony Style is a different brand from Sony Pictures, or even Sony alone. However, Sony imparts all of its associated baggage (good and bad) onto its other brands by the inclusion of the corporate name.

Sony has a separate domain for each of their product divisions. This is good and bad. Because of the separate domains, Sony has a much higher chance of turning up in search results. One could search Sony, Sony Style, Sony Pictures, or any other combination, and some part of the Sony site will turn up. Instead of providing a single highway to the site (Apple) Sony provides consumers with a collection of major roads. The downside to this strategy are the costs associated with owning and maintaining separate domains for each brand. While the money many be a drop in the bucket for a large corporation like Sony, it still matters. There are also different marketing decisions to be made. Does Sony market the home page and let consumers find their way from there? Or do they market each division and domain name separately? If Sony chooses the separate route, again, money rears its ugly head.

I always wonder how effective a branded house strategy can truly be. On one hand, if you have a reputable brand name, as Sony typically does, it's an easy way to build consumer confidence and trust in different product offerings. On the other hand, if you don't have a reputable brand name, or something catastrophic happens, the entire company suffers, instead of a single brand. It's also harder to differentiate product offerings. In the mind of a typical consumer, a Bravia is just a Sony TV, a Blu-Ray is just a Sony DVD player (R.I.P. HD-DVD - you will be missed). It's not like P&G where Tide is a separate entity from Pringles, or any of their other brands. I tend to side with the house of brands strategy. I think it is much more effective to create separate identities for each brand, without the baggage of an obvious corporate name. It can also make damage control much easier. If P&G finds out that Tide is laced with toxic chemicals, it probably won't affect sales of Pringles. However, if Sony is involved in some high profile corporate scandal, then it probably affects sales for their entire product line. Like I said before, a case can be made for each strategy, I just happen to think house of brands is the most effective.