The unwinnable walkman war

Back in 2005 when I was a merchandising manager at Sony — somewhere between a product and design manager — I had the good and bad fortune of owning the portable audio pages on SonyStyle.com. Sony was getting its ATRAC handed to it by Apple, and there was nothing our US-based Sony site could do about it. We'd release a Walkman with an LCD screen, Apple would have color. We'd have 256MB memory, they'd have a GB. And so on. The home office knew each offering wasn't going to sell, so they provided zero online marketing budget. 

I was on a team of really talented people, with guys going on to found design firms and be VPs at major motion picture studios, so it was a delight and great learning experience to work with them. We came up with the below campaign in a week, putting all our chips on the one advantage we had over Apple — battery life. Sony players lasted significantly longer than competitors, so we focused on what a person could do during that extended play time. I was able to sneak in some edgy content like "drown out mom" and "grind every curb in Burbank." I'm still proud of that.

Sales were slim compared to Apple, but we actually went well above forecast, and upper management was impressed.

We really hammered home the battery life advantage, all the way down to the item level pages. Believe it or not, the Sony Style website was pretty slick for its time. 

 We improved the identity experience by allowing the user to add a new phone number and do the whole thing through SMS if they wanted.

And the battery beat continued on with the hard drive player that also could not compete with Apple. Can't say we didn't try!

 My team convinced the Risk group to drop these "selling" goals because data showed they weren't relevant for most people stuck in holds.