COMMENT: Yesterday Sony PR attempted to intimidate 4Square Media by deliberately issuing a statement to the Australian technology media that was false and misleading. It was pure bullying tactics by a large Corporation who accused 4Square Media of vindictive and unfair attacks on their credibility.
Their actions came only hours before their financial results were published and was in our opinion an orchestrated strategy to try and discredit us from reporting the shocking performance of the Japanese Company.
We wish to correct these claims as they are blatantly false.
In their statement Sony say that 4Square Media’s publication ChannelNews recently reported that major retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi Fi were considering not stocking Sony products as a result of Sony planning to open further stores.
We never ever said this.
What ChannelNews reported was as follows. Under the headline Is Sony Set To Dump Sony? We wrote EXCLUSIVE: Harvey Norman, who back in 2001 dumped Australia’s then number one PC Company Compaq after discovering that they were set to open nine retail stores, is today set to hold discussions with Sony about the expansion of their Sony Central stores in Australia.
We then went on to write. It is expected that Sony will be told that if they expand to 19 stores or, “more than what they have now, that they will be dumped from Harvey Norman stores”.
This was a direct quote from a Harvey Norman franchisee and not ChannelNews.
We also wrote.
David Ackery, a director at Harvey Norman said last night that he was set to discuss the issue with Sony and that the expansion of Sony Central stores was “not good and not wanted by the mass retailer””Before I comment in detail and want to discuss the issue with Sony” he said.
We later reported that Ackery had spoken to Carl Rose at Sony on the issue of Sony Central stores, and that Harvey Norman would not be removing Sony products from their stores.
The question in the headline was 100% legitimate as several years ago Gerry Harvey dumped Compaq who was then the #1 PC brand in Australia, when we revealed that Compaq was planning an 8 store chain of stores across Australia.
At the time Compaq CEO Ian Penman believed that Harvey Norman was not adding value to his brand and that the cost of doing business with Harvey Norman was expensive.
We also ran another headline in relation to the Sony stores issue that said “Sony Boned By Their Biggest Customer”.
The word “Boned” was used in the context of the aboriginal expression “to point the finger” and not the Eddie McGuire Channel Nine version.
When this definition is applied there is clear evidence that JB Hi was well and truely pointing there finger at Sony .
There is also no indication in the story that JB Hi Fi were ever considering not stocking Sony products, as Sony is now trying to claim as a defence for their actions in trying to discredit 4Square Media.
The intro to this story read “Sony’s biggest customer JB Hi has said that they are not happy with Sony Australia’s expansion plans into Sony Central branded stores that are now popping up across Australia.
We then reported that JB Hi Fi CEO Richard Uechtritz, has claimed that as Sony’s biggest customer, he was not happy with the spread of Sony Central Stores into new suburbs such as Drummoyne in NSW and Robina on the Gold Coast.
There never was any indication in the story that JB Hi Fi was set to dump Sony.
Was this editorial blackmail as Sony is claiming or good reporting? We say good reporting because it was ChannelNews who searched the ASIC database and found 19 Sony Central registrations. It was also 4Square Media that found the Sony Shops Pty Ltd registration. To me this shows intent on Sony’s part that they intend to explore the concept of entering the retail market in competition with both the special channel and the mass retailers.
Companies don’t go wasting time registering 19 business names without a purpose.
We believe that the power of the pen works both ways. When Sony was telling us how great they were, we listened to them, wrote about them, gave them awards for their efforts.
We also praised their products and constructively through hundreds of pages of editorial over 5 years, we helped them build the Sony brand. For one simple reason they had market share and a brand presence.
Over that period we got very little in advertising support despite the fact that it was the specialist consumer technology publications that were delivering millions of consumers to their products.
Then in January 2009 Sony announced a 95% downturn in profits, they also said that they were not passing on discounts to Australian consumers for their struggling Playstation brand despite the cost of the PS2 being slashed overseas.
We questioned the value of their 70″ LCD TV’s being sold for $70,000 dollars and their 11″ OLED TV for the staggering amount of $6,900, when the same product is selling overseas for $US2,490. We legitimately accused them of price gouging.
This got right up the noses of Jenny Geddes Sony’s Head of Corporate PR and the Sony PR team because this was not how their PR engineering was suppose to spin out.
We then started to analyse Sony as a brand, and underneath the facade of the Made In Japan Company was a host of major problems that had not been revealed in Australia.
Issues such as the fact that Sony was bleeding billions from their failure to make a profit from Sony Bravia TV’s, Playstation gaming consoles, Cybershot Digital Camera’s, Vaio notebooks and PC’s as well as their Handycam digital cameras.
These are not isolated losses caused by the economic downturn these are endemic losses that go back years. In the case of the Bravia LCD TV, Sony has never made a profit since the brand was launched in 2005. The same applies to the Playstation Gaming console that was first launched in 1995.
Then there was the issue of Sony moving from Made In Japan manufacturing to manufacturing with anyone who could deliver them low cost products that did not, according to Sony, compromise the quality of a Sony designed product.
But is this sustainable or even believable? The jury is still out on this issue.
But one thing I do know is that the consumer has a right to know, especially as Sony is still charging a premium for all their products. Internally they still believe that they are a premium brand.
But are they? According to the latest Deloitte brand study which Sony in the past have used to brag about their status it is Samsung that has overtaken Sony as a preferred brand.
We are not alone when it comes to writing about Sony’s brand problems. David Airey, a graphic designer has established a web site that outlines several issues about Sony. It is well worth reading.
See How Sony Killed their brand:Case Study
It also appears that threatening to blackball journalists who don’t go along with what Sony want is a key part of the Sony PR handbook according to people who have been threatened before.
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