Sony Style, but... no SOUL!

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The origin of this post is June, 2006 when Sony Corporation opened a Sony Style store in KOP. The story begins a few weeks after the store opened when I was shopping at the Plaza in KOP. When I first encountered Sony Style, I thought “wow, how cool is that, a Sony store.” I also remember finding it interesting that I hadn’t heard anything about a Sony store coming to KOP. As I entered the store, there didn’t seem to be a “sense of arrival”, no real energy, and stranger, no customers! Wow, I would have thought there would have been a line down the mall waiting to see the latest and greatest from SONY… but, instead, the store was nearly empty. Perplexed, I phoned our Web Strategist, Matt Bischoff and said “Matt, did you know that Sony opened a store like the Apple store?” to which he replied, “yeah, I remember hearing something about that, but there’s not been a lot of talk about it in the blogosphere.” Hmmm, I thought to myself, that’s not a good sign. I proceeded to tell him that, overall, I found the store to be aesthetically pleasing, but also very fragmented. It was a visceral feeling that I couldn’t easily articulate.

As I walked around checking out various displays, PC’s and gadgets, I wanted to understand this feeling (or lack-thereof) a bit more. I thought surely with Sony’s history and resources that they could have at least brought in a Feng Shui master or something. Or had they? Either way, I felt zero energy in this place despite being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise and retail improvments. Then I thought, was it simply too much for the human brain to comprehend? Nah, it’s 2006, not 1976. We deal with overload everyday. Was it the layout? Nah, that played a role, but this emptiness seemed far greater than aesthetics and placement. Curious, I stay engaged in the experience.

Not surprisingly, I found a great number of electronics and gadgets that interested me but I wasn’t compelled to learn more about them or try them. Of course the sales staff was completely inept to say the very least. (I always love it when the guy or girl reads the display card… please sales people… tell me something I may not know from reading the card!) I began to wonder, where the products not suppose to be played with? Nahhh, that’s ridiculous. Sony wants to move merchandise not run a museum. Then I realize that nothing in the entire store was connected to the web. Aha! I’m getting closer I thought to myself. But could this totally unfulfilling experience really have been by design? No way! It’s just not logical.. So I just stand there and take everything in… the apathy of the sales people, the fact that none of the products were connected to the web, the fragmented layout, the nonsensical display of the products and then it hits me, it’s just a bunch of plastic, silicon and circuitry. There’s NO SOUL! That’s it I declare… Sony may have “Style”... but there’s definitely NO SOUL!

That’s the feeling I had in June of ‘06 and it was the exact same feeling August 9, 2008. It’s been said that a picture’s worth a thousand words. Couldn’t it also be said that a picture contains important lessons for company executives? I think these pictures do.

For the record:

1.) It wasn’t my intention to perform a thorough analysis of these two companies but to use the photos to illustrate some obvious problems with Sony’s image or lack thereof. Additionally, I feel these pictures corroborate my initial feelings/findings that I had more than two years ago.

2.) On my recent visit to the Sony store (8/9/08) I confirmed that Sony had in fact made the internet available on their PC’s. How long this has been the case I don’t know and nor did anyone I asked at the store.

3.) I like Sony products… a lot! I own tens of thousands of dollars worth of Sony products that I use personally and professionally and I love all of them. I took the time to write this post because I LIKE Sony not because I want to trash them. I’m hoping Howard steps up his game and begins to make something more eventful happen in the stores. Only time will tell but if the past two years are any indication he’s got a long way to go.

4.) I feel Sony’s online experience suffers from the same cumbersome and fragmented experience as the store provides. Just trying to get information about specific Sony products for this post introduced more challenges than I should have had to deal with.

5.) Lose the creepy security guards in the ill-fitting blue blazers. Or make them invisible, i.e., Tiffany’s. Or better yet, teach them to SELL, not STARE!

6.) The first photo is a side by side comparison of the exterior of both Sony and Apple’s stores. Both photos were taken minutes apart on the same day sometime late in the month of June, 2006 using my Treo 700P. The remaining four photos were taken with my iPhone when I was making a return to the Coach store early August, ‘08. Both visits were completely random in that I wasn’t going to purchase anything from either Apple or Sony. Additionally, I had no foreknowledge of sales, specials or promotions related to the respective stores. The photos represent exactly what I see whenever I’m in KOP. I asked an Apple employee about the line and found out that it was a result of them receiving another shipment if 3G iPhones.

7.) As of this writing the Sony Style store is on Doug’s List. (even the name is cumbersome, couldn’t they have just left it Sony Store?)

By Doug Taylor 08/09/2008 07:15 AM

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