A number of years ago, I proudly worked for a great electronics company. They led in so many areas and were invading the broadcast equipment market when I joined them. I loved working for them and raved about their products. My friends joked that I had their name tattooed across my chest.
Wandering the office one day, I saw the prototype of a revolutionary new entertainment device – a category defining portable music player. The product was the Walkman and the company, Sony – envied by every other electronics manufacturer.
In the early 90’s, Sony shared the pinnacle of the brand world with Coke and IBM. Coke and IBM are still there. Not Sony. Today it slumps at number 28, having fallen eight places in the last five years. Samsung shines in Sony’s former number 20 position – moving twenty-two places forward in the same timeframe.
Sony has hit a couple of recent homeruns with their Spiderman franchise and the PSP. But a few homeruns only makes you a team like the present Toronto Blue Jays. Sony no longer resembles the World Series brand they once were.
In early 2005, reports revealed that Sony was selling CDs (from their Columbia and Epic labels in the UK) that were not Redbook standard. (Redbook is the CD industry technical standard.) These music CDs featured Digital Rights Management software that locked up some Macs and PCs – apparently carrying a warning that they “Will Not Play on Mac/PC”. Sony, responding to criticism, raged they were only protecting their rights. Their brand dimmed further.
I believe this is the week that Sony effectively declared war on the consumer, announcing what most of us had already suspected: fair use is a joke in the movie and record industry, and the companies who control mass-market content will truly stop at nothing to protect their profits.
Sony righteously reacts to the latest criticism, ‘Don’t you realize we are loosing billions to intellectual property thieves. This threatens our very lives’, they hyperbolize. Their only response is to treat us all consumers as criminals? ‘No one can be trusted. You’re all out to get us.‘ And in their paranoia they go to spyware lengths to protect themselves from us. From us, their customers – the ones who spend our obviously nefariously collected cash on their rather ridiculously priced products. Shall we make it easier for them. Let’s just stop buying their products. That won’t impact their brand, will it?
Sony rides on oblivious to the impact of their actions. Past glory blinds them to their present reality. But their name no longer has the cachet to withstand the negative press. They attempt to protect their past while squandering their future.
This once insanely great company, lead by people who lived to thrill their customers – now slowly fades away under the management of bean counters and IP lawyers. How sad.