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Sony rediscovers its mojo

Xperia Z water tank

New line of smartphone hopes to put the brand back on the map

June 30, 2013 1:39 by

Not so long ago, the future didn’t seem to hold much promise for Sony that announced in 2011 a $6.4 billion loss. However, the Japanese electronics manufacturer’s fortunes have turned around the following year when its mobile sector jumped up to the third place in the global smartphone rankings in terms of units sold. “Sales increased year-on-year to $3.66 billion and we are forecasting a 27 percent increase in [global] smartphone unit sales,” explains Gita Ghaemmaghami, marketing communications manager of Sony Mobile MEA.

Sony launched their Xperia Z last January (March in the UAE) to global sales growth on the back of announcing significant increase in marketing spends for the mobile division. The number for global unit sales for the Xperia Z is a reported 4.6 million, however, Sony UAE declined to confirm this number, nor share figures of local unit sales. Ghaemmaghami says that Xperia Z, dubbed Sony’s “super phone,” has received rave reviews across the board. “What’s more, the launch of the Xperia Z came at a time when the ‘One Sony’ brand strategy was introduced, placing mobile at the heart of everything,” she adds. This strategy, which revolves around Sony concentrating more on its core businesses like gaming, digital imaging and mobile, was announced in 2012 following the brand’s profit loss and significant employee cuts (reportedly 10,000). According to the brand, the plan is to focus on these divisions so that they contribute up to 70 percent of total sales.

The marketing strategy for Xperia Z, both locally and globally, featured both ATL and BTL advertising in 2013, says Ghaemmaghami. The new phone, which is supposed to have the highest levels of dust and water resistance according to Sony (it can be submerged in water at a maximum depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes, and remains fully operational), saw an increase in its Facebook Middle East and Saudi Arabia fan pages’ numbers as well. Sony Middle East has currently 9,575 followers on Twitter and 157,632 fans on its Facebook page.

The brand also conducted road shows in UAE and Saudi Arabia for two months, where consumers were able to experience the new smartphone. Moreover, it targeted audience in the UAE by inviting a select group of people, which included “the most prominent online influencers, leading socialites, fashion designers, TV presenters and celebrities. The event reached out to over one million people through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook,” Ghaemmaghami tells Communicate.

In May 2013, Sony released its year-end results, and even though it included positive news for the brand – recording the first profit in five years – mobile sales were less than expected. The brand shipped 33 million Xperia smartphones during the year, however this fell slightly short of the 34 million expected. Still, the Sony mobile sector delivered revenues of $7.8 billion, around 11 percent of total group sales. Part of the reason why other smartphone models of the brand were also not selling well, according to a statement by Sony’s chief financial officer Masaru Kato, was due to the Xperia Z doing so well that sales of other Xperia handsets (like the Xperia V and Xperia T) were affected.

However, the future is still unclear for Sony smartphones, as the competition remains to be very stiff. Selling 10 million units in its first month, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 claimed it was the fastest-selling Android phone in history (it is expected to sell 80 million units in 2013). However, Apple crushed Samsung’s claims when it sold five million iPhone 5′s during the first three days of its launch.

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