Sony Shows No Integrated Marketing Style Here

Several months ago I treated myself to a new laptop: a Sony Vaio. It’s chic, sleek, and tiny. After I got rid of all of the marketing crud (you know, the start-up gobbledygook and free trial software), I fell in love with it. I loved it so much that I also fell for the “Register and save 20% on accessories” offer that came in the slick little catalog insert in the box:

Vaio registration offer

So I went to the Sony registration site, fully expecting that after I provided a few nuggets of personal information, I would be launched directly into a shopping experience worthy of Sony Style. Unfortunately, that was not my destiny.

First, the entry form broke all kinds of standards. For example, some fields were yellow and some weren’t. That typically distinguishes required field from optional fields, but not in this case. After several failed attempts to submit the form and receiving no error messages, I finally submitted it, and my registration was accepted (caveat: Sony has made some changes to the registration process since I made my purchase). Whew! Now I was ready for my Sony Style shopping experience. Sadly, I was disappointed again:

Sony completed registration page
click to enlarge

Now what? How do I get my discount? After three days, my hunger for the cool accessories hadn’t abated, so I called the toll-free number provided in the catalog. The polite individual I spoke to informed me that I should receive an e-mail with a discount code. “No, ma’am, you can’t order the accessories now and get the discount. If you ordered online, you should receive the e-mail in a few days. If you don’t get it, give us a call back.” Sigh…

Finally, after 11 days, I got the long awaited, “Thank you for registering” e-mail:

Sony registration e-mail
click to enlarge

No, I don’t want a credit card! I want my 20 percent discount! Refusing to relent, I called the toll-free number again. This time I explained my situation somewhat more forcefully, and the service representative agreed to take my order and give me the discount. Mission accomplished — finally! What should have been a simple, seamless process took two weeks.

Lessons Learned

What does the Sony brand engender for you? If you are like most people, great design, high quality, and a stalwart brand top the list. My experience gave me a view into the inside: a big organization, internal silos, and politics. The campaign I described here doesn’t have that many components; it shouldn’t be that hard to get right. But this kind of campaign touches different parts of the marketing department (people who probably don’t know each other and sit in different offices) and the broader business.

If you can’t get a simple integrated program like this right, don’t integrate at all. It damages your brand when you mess it up.

If you run campaigns with multiple components that cross organizational silos, you must organize the stakeholders and nail the process down. Understand the steps, define the handoff points, map the time between them. In the end, it’s all about the process. Ideally, a campaign like this is automated. But sufficient testing is required upfront to make sure it works. And don’t forget to put some process checkpoints in place so that if something breaks along the way, you get an alarm bell. You can have great creative (Sony does), but if the process is disjointed, you upset customers, lose business, and look foolish.

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