I wanted to do this post in December but couldn’t. Another new year ( this time Chinese) and thus another year-end. Can’t miss it this time. So here is a quick take (in 3 parts) on stuff which I have noticed over the last few months. Some “Inspired” and some which is distinctly average.
Hail Hilton, Whither Marriott : Over the last 2 years, I have stayed in a Hilton property in 6 different locations. I like the Hilton experience. They do the basics very well. Simple, Efficient, Modern, Consistent. The whole feel is chic, modern and functional without being cold and minimalistic ( unlike some London boutique hotels where you struggle to find the switch for everything). Their frequent stayers program is also one of the best and truly drives loyalty. On the other hand, Marriott has been disappointing. I stayed in a fairly pricey suite in the JW at Hong Kong for a week and it was like I was back in the 80s. It had a CRT TV with a big fat behind, the furniture and décor was frumpy, layout was unimaginative and service was generally poor (starting from the check-in). And all this in their flagship property in Hong Kong, a city known for its mall chic and efficient service. This was not a one-off. My experience as a long term resident at the Marriott residencies at Beijing was also fairly ordinary. In sharp contrast, the year long stay at the Hilton residencies in Colombo was a pleasure. Instead of starting a boutique chain with Ian Schrager Marriott would be well advised to fix their core product. All sizzle, no sausage !!
Full fat Newsweek vs Diet Time (print edition): Till about 6 months back, Time was my preferred read and occasionally I used to glance at a Newsweek. Now the tables have turned. In my view, the new TIME is a disaster. In an attempt to spiff up the look they have sacrificed content. Articles are shorter and lack real depth and analysis. There is not much to read beyond 1-2 stories. On the other hand Newsweek, which has always been physically weightier (due to more pages) has upped the ante. There are frequent specials on topical issues (e.g Reviving America, China’s ascendancy) which go beyond one single lead story. The issue on “Reviving America” even had the Iranian President chipping in (Imagine that!). It seems the TIME team are targeting the younger reader who perhaps doesn’t have the attention span to read a long article. Well, they are alienating their core reader base. The damage is done. I have switched my subscription.
SONY : It is good to be vindicated. A few months back I wrote about SONY starting to get its act together. Still not completely out of the woods, but the news keeps improving. They now have real traction in the LCD TV business with BRAVIA. Latest from US,
“Sony continues to eat up market share in the global LCD marketplace. According to new data released by DisplaySearch, the brand’s BRAVIA range dominated sales in North America, during the fourth quarter of 2007, jumping from 9.7 per cent, to 12.8 per cent. Samsung run Sony a close second, while Vizio came in third, ahead of Sharp. Panasonic maintained its position as the leading plasma brand in the same quarter, with a 38.5 per cent market share”.
BRAVIA is more of a branding and communication success (akin to perhaps VAIO and TRINITRON) unlike WALKMAN and PLAYSTATION which not only had great branding but were real innovations. The BRAVIA campaign is going from strength to strength. Strategically, the idea of focusing single-mindedly on a core category benefit (colour) is great and the executions…well they keep getting better. The competition has been caught napping. Panasonic’s VIERA range and Sharp’s AQUOS don’t even have a dedicated website i.e exist within the company website. Bravia on the other hand has a great website. The other good news for SONY has been the triumph of Blue-ray over HD- DVD. Also the brand selling line “like.no.other” is excellent, aptly capturing SONY’s leadership position and heritage.