Based on materials from The Guardian
Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony, said personalization is the key to the company's return to its former success. He understands it not as a consequence of the massive collection of information about customers, which is practiced by the monsters of the industry, but as an opportunity to evoke an emotional response to products.
“The only way to go is to get closer to the user,” says Kaz Hirai, who took over Sony five and a half years ago and began the company's radial transformation. He has done a lot, based on Sony's record operating profit of £ 4.2 billion over the past year. Hirai is a strong adherent of the Japanese concept of 'kando', which is based on establishing an emotional connection with the user (what Sony calls the 'last inch'). The result is an effect that entails loyalty to the company's products.
“My father and grandfather were both Sony fans,” he says. – When I was about five years old, my father recorded my voice on tape and played it. Being able to hear your own voice was a real miracle of technology.
We had a big TV, but there was also a 5 “TV, and I thought it was great that Sony was able to shrink these products.”
However, by the time Hirai took over the company, the emotional impact of her products had faded.
“Sony products need to have both functional and emotional value,” says Hirai, who sees it as his mission to apply kando to every business unit to bring back its faded fame. – Everyone can provide functionality in the most suitable space. Emotional value has been part of Sony's design philosophy, part of its DNA since it was launched 71 years ago. Now we have lost it, and my task is to regain pride in what we do, precisely by providing emotional value. '
Aibo, Sony's reborn robot dog, embodies kando, combining Sony's advances in robotics and artificial intelligence with the virtues of a real pet. Aibo is capable of recognizing faces and voices, and through sensors on its head, face and back, it can respond to physical contact.
Successful design must remain the same
Visitors and reporters are thrilled with the PS4 – Tokyo Game Show 2013
Hirai was able to radically change any business he headed. In 2006, when he became president of Sony Computer Entertainment, PlayStation made a 230 billion yen loss following the PS3 fiasco. Hirai brought in new management who released the phenomenally successful PS 4.
“If I'm facing a challenge, organizational or financial, I have to step in and answer it myself,” Hirai says. “If things are going well, we always have great performers who can lead them day after day. But when there is a fire, someone has to go into the fire and do the hardest work. Put out everything and make things go normally. '
A central part of Hirai's strategy is building strong brands that are aligned with Sony's changing design culture. When he became CEO, it was logical to expect a redesign of every product that is typical of consumer electronics.
“We got together with managers from all of the biggest product categories and I told them, if this design looks great to you, don't change it. Be proud of what you did – be proud enough to leave it. '
“This is a cultural innovation we have introduced that shows Sony's respect for the products we make. If they are good enough for customers, they should be good enough not to change designs every year. This is how we create emotional value. '
This approach was especially effective with the top-end RX series cameras and headphones. Beyond consumer electronics, however, Sony's focus has shifted towards AI and robotics, camera sensors (through their semiconductor business) and the PlayStation, which has 70 million users worldwide.
Hirai is far from satisfied with the PlayStation's leadership in the gaming industry or the success of Sony Pictures' movie hits. 'Sony Pictures has a number of hits, but it needs a solid model. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a success, but that means we have a lot to worry about with DVD, Blu-ray and licensing this year and beyond. How successful you are this year means how things will go next year, and a year from now, and so on. It's a tricky business. '
The company is looking for new applications for its AI, sensors and robotics solutions in the field of autonomous vehicles. For example, the best image sensors on the market can help cars 'see' people better: wide-angle lenses provide better visibility and can instantly adjust to poor or changing lighting conditions.
Hirai announced a partnership with auto industry leaders at CES in Las Vegas, but noted that the segment is still in its infancy and is not expected to generate revenue in the coming years. “Right now, the main driving force behind matrix production is smartphones, digital cameras and, to some extent, surveillance devices and the Internet of Things. Before entering the automotive segment, we need to make sure that our business is stable. '
Sony's photomatrixes are used by leaders in the smartphone industry – Hirai jokes about supplying 'small' companies in Cupertino, South Korea and China – but their own smartphones outside of Japan are having a hard time.
Some people think that there is no point in the existence of Sony Mobile, but Hirai disagrees:
“The point of what we are doing is not that smartphones are the future, but that we need devices to connect to the network and communicate. If we give up our presence in the field of communications, then the next paradigm shift will leave us no room. It's not about smartphones today, but rather about something more than the smartphones themselves. We want to play on this board, and ideally we want to win. And for this strategic goal, I want to make sure that we stay – not in the smartphone business as such, but in the communications business. '
Sony's restructuring appears to have paid off, bringing in what analysts have called staggering results in the second quarter: a hugely successful last quarter and a forecast of 20% annual profit growth – big enough change for a company in decline and reporting $ 3 billion in losses. pounds at the time when Hirai took over. But he is far from resting on his laurels: “The time to celebrate the victory has not yet come, as we have another quarter before the end of the fiscal year. We need to be confident in achieving or exceeding forecasts. This is the first task. The second challenge is to make sure everything doesn't collapse next year, as it did last. '
While Hirai may not believe in smartphones as the future, and is focused on generating sustainable income in 2018, Sony is still open to new technologies, whatever they are.
“We need to make sure that we are continually investing in future business – not only in business model, but also in technology. That way we can keep the company in its best shape for our descendants. '
This last statement sounds very Japanese, doesn't it? What do you, dear readers, think about the prospects of the company and, in particular, its smartphones? Are their devoted admirers left among you?