“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” Mark Twain
The new film about Steve Jobs again underlines the importance of Personality in business. I wrote on this theme in my book The 20 Ps of Marketing.
“Soon after I joined Sony in 1988 my Managing Director, Nobu Watanabe invited me to spend a day with him at the company’s flat in London to go through how he wanted me to work in Sony. Nobu taught me a particularly valuable lesson. He had drawn for me a diagram, quite complex in structure but essentially showing a circle which was divided into two equal parts. One half expressed the whole of the Sony Corporation with all its policies and procedures, its history and its reputation, its brands and is values, and yes, its Personality. The other half represented David Pearson, with my skills and experience, my intelligence and values and yes, my Personality. The two together would be the result of my career in Sony. I was to accept Sony as it was and follow its policies and procedures, respect its history and its reputation, respect also its brands and its values and its personality. But in return I should bring my skills and experience to Sony, use my intelligence and live up to my values and express my Personality.
Nobu was giving me a great gift. He was emPowering me to express my Personality in my dealing with the Sony Corporation. I felt tremendously emPowered and far from being overawed by the immense Power of the Sony brand I could see that it was mine to use. I was also blessed with an excellent Marketing Director, Satoshi Kakuda, known as Sam. He and I share a birthday which seemed to bring us even closer together and Sam accompanied me on my first Product line up trips to Japan. These trips to Tokyo were also an opportunity for Sam and me to meet with top management and discuss our Market performance in the UK and perhaps seek support for some special project.
I thoroughly enjoyed the meetings with the great men who had built up Sony’s fabulous business and its amazing brand. They metaphorically wore the medals of their famous campaigns on their chests. So Kozo Ohsone, who at this time was head of the audio group, had been the engineer responsible for launching Walkman. Minoru Morio, who was the head of the Personal Video or Camcorder group, had been the engineer who had cracked the PAL code and so enabled Sony to sell its excellent Trinitron Colour Televisions in Europe. Hideo Nakamura had been one of the key engineers in the development of Compact Disc and was rewarded with the opportunity to build an In Car Equipment business which he called Mobile Electronics. And there were many more.
These men had clearly expressed their Personality in developing these marvellous Products and I was being invited to express my Personality in the Marketing of them. It was a tremendously exciting opportunity for me, but then I realized that I had had this chance before. Mars too had encouraged me to express myself; it was perhaps the principal difference from Procter & Gamble which tended more to enforce a single way of behaviour. Even at Pillsbury with all its financial controls, I had been encouraged by my excellent boss, Bruce Noble to radically overhaul the Product development plans and bring innovative Products to Market. One I particularly enjoyed developing was Green’s Fruit Whisk. There were well established dessert mixes in the market led by General Foods' Angel Delight. The housewife simply whisked a flavoured powder with milk, set it in the fridge and served a tasty dessert to her children, which, because of the milk content, could be described as nutritious even though the powder consisted of sugar and various chemicals, setting agents, flavourings and colourings. Green’s could easily reproduce this Product and compete with General Foods on an own label basis, for example, but we were looking to be more than a me-too manufacturer.
We had installed fruit processing technology to support our range of cheesecake mixes and explored what more we could do with the capacity. Fruit Whisk was developed to compete with Angel Delight but offer a more natural Product. It consisted of natural fruits such as strawberries which with pectin could be mixed with milk and produce a delicious dessert almost instantly. Unfortunately we did not have the Marketing muscle of General Foods and the Product failed to gain sufficient volume but it was a good example of how I had had the opportunity to express my Personality in an earlier incarnation before my Sony career.
At Sony there were many opportunities to express my Personality in the Marketing of our great range of Products and I have described some of these in this book. However, there would be few examples of direct involvement in Product development other than our input at Line Up meetings. Sam encouraged me to express my opinions even if I had no Professional knowledge of the category. This went against the grain at first because I had been trained to do the opposite - that is never express a personal opinion of Products but rather trust the research to play back the consumer’s view. Sony had a healthy disrespect for such research - the conventional view is that Walkman would never have been launched if top management had listened to the research - but rather encouraged the expression of one’s own views. This came from the top and was still the culture.
Norio Ohga, the President of Sony at this time, had been trained as a singer in Berlin under Herbert von Karajan and married a concert pianist. While still developing his career as a musician he became Professionally interested in the tape recorders that Sony was trying to develop. He was quite critical of these pilot Products and was invited to come into the factory to give his comments directly. Eventually that turned into a fulltime role and Ohga-san swiftly became one of the most important executives at Sony. He set up the Design Centre which concentrated the design efforts. Thus each Product Group had its own design team but all the designers reported separately to Ohga–san so he could control the design process and ensure consistency across the brand. His Product philosophy permeated all that Sony brought to Market and was one of the principal reasons for its success. Steve Jobs, until his enforced sabbatical owing to ill health and subsequent untimely death, played a similar role for Apple in the recent past.
In Sony UK we did take one opportunity to influence Product development more directly. The world of High Fidelity Audio, HiFi for short, is quite arcane. The physics are such that the high fidelity reproduction equipment that audiophiles are looking for should be relatively easy to develop. However, in practice there is a great deal of differing opinion on what makes good HiFi. This is particularly the case with loudspeakers. Loudspeakers were first developed for telephones and then for public address. The use of loudspeakers to listen to music at home initially on the kitchen radio set was based on moving coil loudspeakers first invented in 1898 by Oliver Lodge, developed further by Jensen and Pridham who established the Magnavox company but it was the design of Kellogg and Rice patented in 1924 that set the standard.
Loudspeakers typically combine different parts in an enclosure, a tweeter covers high frequencies, a conventional drive unit the mid-range and a woofer the bass frequencies. More sophisticated Products might add a super tweeter for very high frequencies and some favour a sub-woofer for very low frequencies though many HiFi enthusiasts frown on these. With so many different parts the key to fidelity is the cross over between them and the quality of the components and wiring.
We imported a range of Sony loudspeakers but while our compact disc players were well received - after all we had co-invented the format - our loudspeakers always came up short. British audiophiles found them harsh and not sympathetic to British golden ears. The Japanese engineers could not understand this but even in blind testing where the brand was not known the results were the same. I could understand the Japanese engineers’ argument that the laws of physics are universal but I also thought that music is not only about physics. After all we grow up hearing different sounds, different languages and initially probably different music. Is it so surprising that we hear music in a different way? Eventually we won the right to develop our own UK-designed loudspeaker. We gave them the sub-brand Brooklands where our offices were based. The Products were developed by our own Product management in conjunction with UK specialist designers and were launched to a very Positive response. It was a heartening demonstration of the principle that one should express your own Personality - in this case the Personality of British based HiFi.
The US based sales company had also developed its own idea, but in this case they persuaded Tokyo to take it up and introduce it into the world-wide line-up. The Americans thought it would be good if consumers could be introduced to Sony Products at a very early age. Thus My First Sony was born. Products were designed for use by toddlers. They were in rugged plastic with bright primary colours. Some were simplified versions of adult Products such as My First Sony Walkman while others were specifically designed for children. One I particularly enjoyed playing with my daughter was a graphics tablet that hooked up to your TV allowing you to draw anything with a pallet of colours and see it on your screen. Of course, with such a range it gave us an opportunity to seek new outlets specialising in children’s Products. One chain we approached was the Early Learning Centre; we told them that we had developed the range in tough plastic to stand up to children’s abuse. “Let’s see,” said the buyer. He picked up one of the Products and threw it at the wall. He then tested if it was still working. It was. “That seems to be OK.” And he moved on to the next issue. Not for the first time we silently thanked the Professionalism of the engineers in Tokyo but it was the American Marketing team who had expressed their Personality in suggesting the idea.
Personality is a key element in developing leadership styles. In assessing performance a useful mnemonic is MAP. This stands for Motivation, Ability, Personality + Vision in Leaders. In assessing a man or woman in business I want to know what they have made of themselves. As Erich Fromm said “Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important Product of his effort is his own Personality.” “
That came from Chapter 20 of my book The 20 Ps of Marketing published two years ago by Kogan Page. If you wish to order it there is a link on the home page of this website. I have now published an extract from each chapter covering each of the 20 Ps promoting the book in my weekly blog and so have reached the end of that stage of my marketing plan. From now on I rely on your word of mouth, or if you have the time and the inclination, please post a review on Amazon. Many thanks.
Copyright David C Pearson 2015 All rights reserved