Sony will need a killer holiday season to meet its ambitious target of selling 5 million of its newly released PlayStation 4 consoles by March. And though retail analysts predict consumers might spend less on gifts than last year, Guy Longworth, svp of brand marketing for Sony PlayStation, remains confident that TV spots and social media will create huge buzz and spark sales.
PlayStation last unveiled a console in 2006 prior to the recession. Any concern about the slow recovery impacting sales?
All the research we’ve done is very positive—not to mention our sales have been promising so far. So yeah, the economy may be soft. But a large chunk of the population is working and making money. In addition, it costs $399—the PlayStation 3 launched at $600. So, the new one is $200 cheaper. This thing is going to last for up to 10 years. So $40 a year is kind of the way I’d look at it.
PlayStation and rival Xbox were among the biggest spenders at the TV upfronts last year. Are you guys in a contest to see who spends more?
Yes, to some extent. We invest in what we think is the appropriate amount of money to launch a platform, and our competitors will no doubt do whatever they think is right. The thing that’s changed a bit is that share of voice doesn’t dictate who wins anymore. Brands no longer own the conversation; they’re part of the conversation. So yes, there’s significant investments in terms of media dollars, but that’s only one piece of the story.
Are you worried about negative social chatter?
Not at all. The experience you get with playing games like Kill Zone is simply unbelievable. It’s like being in a movie.
How much focus are you putting on digital marketing?
We are shifting more money into digital media. Especially as we go through the holiday season, we want to be where our customers are spending more and more of their time. We are heavy spenders on the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Google and [popular gaming site] IGN. We are relatively focused on the core gamer. We are trying to capture their hearts and minds right now.
When it comes to the holidays, are you still targeting parents?
No, it’s less about an age group or demographic these days, I’d say, and more about an attitude. Like movie buffs, there are people now who love everything about gaming. And they come in different shapes, sizes and ages. There are 13-year-olds and 45-year-olds who are connoisseurs.
You will remake the well-received “Perfect Day” spot with gamer-generated content this month. What sparked that decision?
We know that gamers love to share their achievements. So we wanted to celebrate that mind-set, rewarding them and thanking them by creating an animated montage of their achievements while set to Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”
When Reed died recently, did you consider pulling the spots?
We love his music and had no idea about his serious health problems, therefore we were shocked and upset. The ad was already on the air, so we obviously talked about the implications of his passing. But our view was that the spot celebrates gaming and celebrates the life he loved to live. So we felt very comfortable continuing to air the spot.
On a happier note, how competitive are you on PlayStation?
My teenage boys and 12-year-old girl run rings around me, I am afraid. I played arcade games when I was a kid. At 47, it’s hard to keep up with them.