Sony short on sizzle with their ePaper watch

[Guest post by David Nichols, Managing Partner and Head of Invention]

Sony are a tech giant: a global $65bn business with positions in many technology markets. However, they famously failed to catch the wave of digital music players, with their encumbent ‘Walkman’ brand being swept away by Apple’s all conquering iPod. The BRAVIA TV brand is in third place behind Samsung and LG. And I wonder if they will suffer a similar fate in a new market: smart watches. 

Several key players have already made first forays into the new sector, including Samsung and LG, with the Apple Watch following in 2015. But Sony seems to have some technology which could, on paper, give them an edge. And I mean literally on paper: the watch uses e-Paper technology.

Sony ePaper watch
The technology is interesting but the marketing is les impressive. Here's why.

  • Short on "sizzle": With a product as cool as this Sony seem to have have missed a chance to create some excitement and buzz around it. They could be making more of it, doing a pre-launch viral campaign for example, maybe having it appear on the wrist of a film star in a Sony Pictures release. Instead, it seems that Sony has let it get reported as 'e-paper technology' and has it shown alongside 'e-paper bow-ties'.
  • Marketing coming in too late:  Marketing can too often be seen as just the ‘fluff’ that gets added for launch; the logo, ad, website and some PR.  If you look at successful multi-product companies their marketing is about the whole organisation as seen from the consumer’s point of view.  The marketing and technological development are simultaneous. Increasingly this means sharing how it was developed (Apple typically introduce us to their designers) as well as giving it out in advance to the key influencers.  A good example of this was the launch of the new Range Rover Evoque – Victoria Beckham ‘introduced’ it, giving it her seal of style approval.  As a result the first year’s production run sold out so fast they started building more before the first car had been delivered.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 19.07.56

  • Cool with a purpose: just pairing this technology with any celebrity or other partner is not the answer. Finding the right key influencers is crucial to make the product appear ‘cool with a purpose’, not just a ‘badge’.  A good example of this is Red Bull who now show their athletes/pilots drinking their product before & after their extreme sport. This reinforces the functional "sausage" of the product directly within the emotionally appealing communication.


This does look like another example of Sony having the right technology, but being beaten to by better marketed followers. Time will see if this time they can up their marketing game to match the wow factor of the product innovation.