Revised April 5, 2012
Sony Targets Laptop Consumers in China:
Segment Global or Local?
Richard Lopez, product manager for Sony Corporation in Hong Kong, had one week to finalize his plan for marketing VAIO laptop computers in China before presenting it to senior management in January 2011. Lopez was struggling to decide which segment (or segments) to target and how to position VAIO for this segment.
At the heart of his struggle was an unusual problem—too much data. When Lopez started drafting his plan he was referencing three market research reports: a study on consumer values, qualitative interview data, and a segmentation study completed just two months earlier. Then in December Sony’s vice president of global marketing had encouraged all product managers to utilize a new corporate study that segmented consumers at a global level. Lopez wondered which study—or combination of studies—would lead to the best plan for VAIO in China.
About Sony Corporation and VAIO
Sony Corporation began in 1946 as the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, a manufacturer of telecommunications and measurement equipment. Over the following decades, Sony (the company’s official name as of 1958) became a major player in multiple electronics markets, including audio, video, communications, and information technology products for home and professional use. By 2010 the company’s motion picture, television, computer entertainment, music, and online businesses were operated by more than 171,000 employees worldwide, including in Japan, the United States, Europe, and China. Sony recorded consolidated annual sales of approximately $89 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2010. To build on its consumer lines (which included past category leaders such as the Walkman personal stereo and current leaders such as the Handycam camcorder), Sony introduced what became the VAIO series of computer products in mid-1996, with the debut of a desktop product. One year later the company released VAIO laptops in Japan.
Sony’s strategy for the VAIO laptop was to offer a relatively high-end niche product that attracted consumers for whom style and design were a top priority. Prior to the VAIO launch, competitor laptops tended to feature fairly similar and relatively unexciting designs. Most laptops were available only in monochromatic grays and blacks, and they tended to be boxy, bulky, and heavy.
©2012 by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. This case was prepared by Sachin Waikar under the supervision of Professor Kent Grayson, and it was written with assistance from Mike Daudet at Sony Corporation. To protect company confidentiality, some information has been disguised or fictionalized. Cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 800-545-7685 (or 617-783-7600 outside the United States or Canada) or e-mail email@example.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise— without the permission of the Kellogg School of Management.
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