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Spotlight on Strategy: The Sony Mavica

"It's costlier, clunkier, doesn't produce the sharpest pictures--and it is the top-selling digital camera in the U.S."

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the success of Sony's Mavica product in the market for digital cameras. Despite higher price and less functionality, the Sony Mavica is the market leader in its category and is an excellent example of successful high-tech strategies in action. (see Executive Summary and Top Ten Mistakes in high-tech marketing). Consider the following examples:

Example One
WSJ Article Excerpt: "No one had foreseen the Sony Mavica taking off as it did...because we were all concentrating on the resolution" says Gary Rado, executive vice president of the U.S. unit of Japan's Casio [a Sony competitor]

Critical Issue: Customers view products very differently than the people who supply them. In technology-based companies the tendency is to try to sell products on the basis of price, special features and technical specifications.

Strategy Employed: Rather than competing on technical specifications, Sony focused on the "intangible" factors that are especially attractive to most customers.

Example Two
WSJ Article Excerpt: The Mavica stores its pictures on a standard floppy disk. Among Mavica's digital competitors, there are at least five noninterchangeable storage systems...

Critical Issue: Mainstream customers are most concerned about the company they are buying from, the quality of the product they are buying, industry standards, and the infrastructure of supporting products and system interfaces.

Strategy Employed: Sony took advantage of the industry's lack of standards (which are very important to non-technical buyers) and designed the Mavica to work with a standard storage device, the floppy disk.

Example Three
WSJ Article Excerpt: "So many products out there, so much clutter," says Ed Pullen, a senior industry analyst at research firm ZD StoreBoard in La Jolla, Calif.

Critical Issue: Lack of differentiation is the leading cause of failure among high-tech products. To gain a strong product position, a company must differentiate its product from all other products on the market. Differentiation is possible on the basis of many different factors: quality/reliability, ease of use, functions/features, applications, benefits, price/performance, or cost of use, to name just a few.

Strategy Employed: Sony has clearly captured the ease-of-use position in the market for digital cameras. This makes the Mavica significantly different than other products on the market, which leads to public endorsements from industry analysts. "A child could figure it out," says Ron Glaz, a market researcher with International Data Corporation in Framingham, Mass.