Booming sales recently reported by Sony Ericsson, which is jointly owned by Sony of Japan and Ericssson of Sweden, were underpinned by the huge success of the company's range of Walkman music phones, which include a digital music player and carry the Walkman logo. Launched only a year ago, the phones are already selling at a rate of one million per month, and one in four of the handsets that Sony Ericsson now sells are Walkman branded.
The company recently reported second-quarter sales of nearly €2.3 billion, a 41% year-on-year increase.
Before its mobile phone reincarnation, the Walkman brand was struggling to sustain the success it enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s. Sony failed to meet the challenge posed by Apple and its iPod, launched in 2001, trying to push a proprietary music-file format that ignored the widespread availability of songs coded as MP3s. Clunky software and over-restrictive recording rights arrangements added to its woes and, in the process, Walkman surrendered the mobile music winner's jersey to iPod.
Although Sony launched product after product, none of its digital Walkman products matched the iPod for must-have appeal.
Faced with this embarrassment, Sony decided last year to license the Walkman brand to Sony Ericsson, which is independently managed. Its new breed of Walkman phones, with software that allowed users to 'rip' their own CDs to the phone's memory card were an instant hit and the company has now sold 9.5 million Walkman phones.
The challenge was to persuade consumers that a phone could be a credible portable music device to rival the iPod. The answer was to utilise the still-powerful Walkman brand. A decent amount of memory to store songs, good quality headphones and software for converting CDs to digital music files completed the package.
The company now has six different Walkman phones and has another three coming soon. The latest has a 4GB memory – the same as a 1,000 song iPod nano.
The success shows that great brands rarely die, and that consumers' goodwill for them can be reignited.
Source: Walkman makes a mobile comeback
By Paul Durman
The Sunday Times, July 16 2006
Review by James Curtis