NEW YORK As CMO of Sony Electronics, Mike Fasulo recently oversaw the launch of a $100 million campaign that touts the company's high-definition goods. Using the tagline, "High definition. It's in our DNA," it brands Sony products as having "HDNA."
The 49-year-old married father of three has been with the company for 23 years in positions ranging from junior financial analyst to president of Sony Electronics e-Solutions.
Here, he talks about fighting Apple for audio dominance, why Blu-ray is nothing at all like Betamax and Colin Powell's authenticity.
Q: The average tenure of a CMO is about two years. You took this position in April 2005. What are you doing to ensure that your time in office isn't nearing its end?
A: If you could figure it out and let me know, I would appreciate it. As any C-level businessperson, you've got to look at the objectives of the business and put them up front. We're demonstrating how customer focused we are. My team is doing a great job of demonstrating, and not just talking about, putting customers first—from media and marketing to how we do our advertising. It's a business first, and then tenure kind of comes along with that.
Omnicom's BBDO in New York and 180 L.A. began sharing duties on the Sony Electronics account in 2006. How do you decide which agency does which campaign?
We decide by the workload we have going on at any given point. It's actually worked out very well from the point of view of having enough resources at hand. And there hasn't been any conflict between the two. We don't have them compete on each pitch. 180 L.A. is the lead.
What does each agency bring to the party?
Both bring a tremendous amount of creative thinking and breakthrough ideas. Obviously, BBDO New York has a vast amount of resources. With the combination of the two, we cover the gamut of needs—from creative, production and big ideas to local needs.
Twentieth Century Fox and MGM have backed Sony's proprietary Blu-ray format, but Paramount and DreamWorks recently announced they would be releasing movies exclusively in HD-DVD. What are you doing to reassure consumers that Blu-ray won't become a latter-day Betamax?
Blu-ray has tremendous support from the lion's share of major studios. It's a format that obviously delivers a significant quality experience to consumers. We're totally committed to it.
What Sony spot that you've helped develop are you most proud of?
HDNA.[The campaign features NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. pointing out, in separate spots, that professional sports camera operators use HD so consumers should watch in HD. It brands all Sony Electronics products capable of high definition as having HDNA.] It's the first time I can remember that we've brought together, under one banner, all our of product categories.
Apple has become synonymous with portable music, a position Sony used to own with the Walkman. And Sony Connect, now set to close, didn't catch on. What is Sony Electronics doing to regain the top position in consumers' minds?
Frankly, in music I don't think we've lost it. In the MP3 format, there's no argument over the iPod's success. In music we're still a dominant force in the consumer's mind. In the home audio space we're doing extremely well. We've got products coming out with Bluetooth technology to let consumers take their content on the go. No one should think we don't have a commanding share of the audio business. [At press time, Sony announced adigital music player that plays music and video, and Sony Japan launched an egg-shaped digital music player called the Rolly.]
What's the smartest business decision you've ever made?
To join Sony. If I've been here 23 years, that shows you it's a great and growing firm. It gives you as much autonomy and growth as you can handle. Also, it's a worldwide beloved brand, and your performance matters.
And what's the dumbest?
This interview—only kidding. Probably letting my ego get in the way of good leadership skills when I moved to vice president of sales back in 1989. I was a young hotshot with a lot of ego and not as much experience as I thought.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Consumers. When you see letters and talk to customers at retail or on the phone or on blogs, it's very inspiring how they view the Sony brand.
Who inspires you the most creatively?
Walt Disney—the best storyteller and a man who defied segmentation. [I also admire] General Colin Powell. In government, in them private and public sectors and his personal life, he's just totally authentic. There is an authenticity to everything he does.
Name one person with whom you're dying to collaborate.
On the grand playing field I would say the likes of a Steven Spielberg, considering his passion to entertain and enrich lives, and of course because he's a creative genius. The other end of the spectrum would be that of a small, entrepreneurial-type, family-owned operation that has been built on strong values and desires to succeed.