Friday, November 12, 2010
My marketing blog about Product Lifecycle:
Tribute to Sony Walkman cassette player: Birth in 1979, followed by growth, maturity, retirement and in October 2010, death !
October 2010 saw the death of the iconic Sony Walkman cassette players. Production was stopped in Japan. This blog is an obituary. It had an amazing run for 31 years. 220 million cassette Walkman players were sold! It was a (product) life well lived. Sadly, it is no more. In August 1991, I bought my Walkman and it was my most prized possession! Mentioned below is a brief life story of Sony Walkman cassette player in particular.
The Sony Walkman was developed in the Sony Research Center, Yokohoma, Japan. Sony typically invested billions of dollars in R&D, especially product development. It had 4 corporate laboratories, nine development groups, R&D labs around the world. It had in USA, two major technology centers and several small laboratories.
The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2, entered the marketplace on July 1, 1979, in Japan. Sony had designed a heavy, portable tape player before at $1,000 per unit, but there was no demand. Sony chairman Akio Morita had requested for a design with cheap components and a small, stylish body. Sony Walkman was priced to sell at $200. Sony's obsession with making popular devices smaller helped perpetuate Japan's reputation for producing technology in miniature. Along with highlighting the compact design, Sony also pioneered the idea of portable music as a sign of youth. Teenagers were often the target demographic in advertisements for the Walkman, and Sony hoped that the device would become associated with fitness, youth and mobility. Walkmans came in a variety of bright colours, and many models were labelled "Sports."
On average, minor product changes occur about once a year. For Sony Walkman, new models were introduced every six months or less. Plus an anniversary model on 1st July every year. Major model changes that require the introduction of new technology occurred only once every three to five years. Sony worked to prolong the product's life in the marketplace. Sales were very good.
By late 1980s, competition grew, from Toshiba (Walky), Aiwa (CassetteBoy) and Panasonic. Sony's compact disc player, the Discman, was introduced in 1984. As CDs became more popular, cassettes naturally began to disappear. As a testament to the strength of the brand, though, Sony began to market other products with the name "Walkman," abandoning the Discman name altogether. Walkman lived its product life well. It set the stage for innovation and further development and brought about new products like MP3 players and iPods.
Sony failed to maintain its leadership in the segment that it had created itself! MP3 players were more popular soon, and not many people were interested in the cassette player. Sony’s youth-in-motion branding was usurped by the more dynamic and aggressive iPod from Apple.
In October, 2010, Sony announced that April 2010 was the last month of production in Japan. (Though, China shall continue production for selected markets, priced at $30) We owe Sony Walkman a deep and respectful bow. Plus a tearful goodbye.