Sony Electronics Speaks on Diversity

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Kadesha Boyer is a Management Associate in Sony Electronics’ Management Development Rotational Program, a two-year program that exposes associates to various areas of the business and prepares them for a managerial role within the company. During her current stint in corporate marketing, she recently teamed up with Diversity Affluence as a sponsor for two events – the American Latino Media Arts Awards and a gala fundraiser for Evidence, A Dance Company – that both targeted affluent ethnic consumers. We talked with Kadesha about the experiences and the lessons Sony learned from its participation.

ANDREA HOFFMAN: What interested you about this audience as a viable area for Sony to pursue?
KADESHA BOYER: I was impressed with your company’s mission, so I proposed the idea of Sony exploring this untapped affluent ethnic consumer market. With a reputation as a leader and innovator, this opportunity appeared to be worthwhile to Sony because we want to stand apart from our competitors.

ANDREA: How did you approach and convince your higher-ups to embrace this idea?
KADESHA: My manager was very receptive; I didn’t really have to sell her on the idea. She understands that we operate in a global (diverse) business world and in order to compete, our clientele must reflect that. My success in getting the okay speaks to the company’s openness to new ideas, even from very new employees.

ANDREA: What was the idea, specifically?
KADESHA: I pitched the idea that tapping into this segment would be good exposure for our Sony brand. It would not only introduce our new technology to the affluent ethnic consumer, but it would allow us to tell our new design story in a more personal environment. Your company had provided me with a few different sponsorship opportunities to consider, and I reviewed them. The two opportunities I settled on were occurring in August, and the summer is an important time for the brand. The other events were on smaller scales — a few intimate dinners with maybe 30 to 40 people – whereas the events we selected were much larger, which appealed to us.

ANDREA: Was there a product you were specifically looking to introduce to these groups?
KADESHA: Yes, the OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) television, which I am responsible for the marketing efforts of this product. The screen size is eleven inches diagonal and features a 3mm thin panel. The picture quality is amazing offering a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. This product costs $2,500, but it is worth every penny. You really have to experience it, which is why we liked the idea of these events. Consumers had the opportunity to interact with the product and ask us questions.

ANDREA: How did the sponsorships work?
KADESHA: Sony had an exclusive lounge area at each event where we placed five OLED TVs around the lounge, so when consumers entered, they could experience them, touch them and ask product specialists questions. We also offered a raffle where we gave away an OLED TV at each event. In order to be eligible, participants were asked to fill out the capture sheets we created with your company. These will be a big help toward building a prospect database. Between the two events, we were able to add about 250 names to our current database.

ANDREA: What did you discover from the information you captured?
KADESHA: At the ALMA Awards, which was in Pasadena, California, we discovered that the attendees didn’t understand how to use the product, and also that the price point was a bit of a problem. The average income of those who filled out the form was in the $90-$99K range. At the Evidence event, which was in the Hamptons, the average income was between $100-$129K and the individuals had no problem with the price point. Also, they already understood where to use the product – which is in the office, the kitchen, the dressing room, etc.

ANDREA: And what did you learn about the actual experience of sponsoring events like these?
KADESHA: If we were to participate in the ALMA Awards next time, I would like to have product placement elsewhere in order to reach those with higher incomes, such as the celebrity suite. In the Hamptons, we definitely got bang for our buck. Each event sponsorship was priced differently so we were able to compare and contrast results. We actually sold an OLED TV on site in the Hamptons and I believe that sales in our Sony Style stores will increase throughout the northeastern region.

ANDREA: Our research says that giving back to the community is germane to marketing to affluent African Americans so by supporting the Hamptons fundraiser event, you probably scored points. Are there any other areas you’d like to move into?
KADESHA: Well, actually, I would like to continue to have marketing events similar to the one in the Hamptons. As a reputable brand, the attendees welcomed us, however, I would like Sony to also be recognized for its connection to the consumer. It’s one thing to have ads and direct marketing, but to be local and involved in the community makes a big difference. It shows that we care and that we can connect to the consumer on that level.

ANDREA: But doesn’t everyone already know about Sony?
KADESHA: We have brand awareness across the board, sure. From the events, we can tell that everyone knows and loves the brand. Everyone understands – even if we haven’t directly targeted them – that we’re known for quality and innovation. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether or not we are connecting with and relating to them. Some forms that prospects filled out enlightened us to the fact that we aren’t always reaching who we think we are, and our goal is to change that.

ANDREA: Is this connection especially important for niche markets?
KADESHA: The reality is that mass marketing is kind of old school. It may be more cost effective, but it’s not as efficient, especially for higher-end consumers. Every consumer is different. It’s not fair to lump them into the same bucket – their needs must be catered to.

ANDREA: Any final thoughts?
KADESHA: I just want the business world to know that Sony’s experience suggests that there are opportunities in the ethnic affluent market. We want to be a leader in this, but we encourage others to follow suit.

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