Amiably chatting about the relative merits of English and French wines over lunch, Sony Mobile Communications UK & Ireland MD Pierre Perron was the archetypal Gallic charmer.
As he toyed with his glass of English Primrose Hill wine, he talked about his background and how he has adapted to living in Fulham with his wife and 18-year-old son since moving to the area last year.
However, despite his pleasant demeanour Perron is acutely aware that like his rivals he has the unenviable task of making Sony’s products distinguishable and cultivating an attractive brand in a very ‘crowded market’.
‘That is crucial, a most important question. How do we stand out? What makes us different? The market is crowded. Very crowded,’ he pointed out.
Perron explained how market trends continue to move away from pure technology offerings, and even beyond smartphones, with consumers now looking for a complete entertainment experience.
He enthused: ‘Sony Mobile Communications is perfectly positioned to stand apart by offering open, easy to use connectivity to premium entertainment experiences. Not only can we produce innovative hardware that is fully connected, we are the only company that can produce smartphones and win Grammys or Oscars. We are able to offer consumers the complete, open entertainment experience from both a hardware and content perspective.’
Perron handed over a selection of Sony’s latest Xperia phones to illustrate his point. ‘Our products are open and designed to work with other products like wireless keyboards or DLNA-certified TVs, with a single swipe from the smartphone display allowing you to access content on a TV, tablet and PC,’ he said.
‘Customers can access all the latest entertainment experiences from the Sony Entertainment Network – 15 million music tracks and 80,000 movies and TV shows – using one wallet across Music Unlimited, PlayStation Network and Video Unlimited.’
Perron, who has a master’s degree from the Grenoble School of Management, joined Sony in 1989 and has had a well-travelled career across its phone business, working in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Latin America and the Caribbean before he was appointed to head up the UK business in September.
Since his appointment, Perron has focused on efficiency as well as the marketing of new products. He explained: ‘I have looked at creating the most efficient business and pushing my teams to think outside the box to create the best ideas and best solutions.’
The drive to make Sony the most efficient mobile business in the country prompted a restructure to streamline communications.The most recent change was the high profile appointment of Catherine Cherry as its new marketing director. Cherry replaces David Hilton, who left to pursue other projects. Perron said: ‘Sony Mobile Communications will continue its efforts to improve operational efficiency, and will consider appropriate plans that drive this further.
‘Since the acquisition of Ericsson, we have implemented a faster, more streamlined structure to improve communications between global and local markets. Global works directly with local markets to get products to markets faster, as well as create a quicker, more cohesive marketing strategy.’
Sony’s ‘Made of Imagination’ advertising campaign kicks off on 24 March with a 60 second TV commercial as well as marketing across TV, print, digital, out-of-home and retail.
The company is understood to be spending three times as much as last year in a marketing push for its new Xperia handsets. Perron refused to corroborate the rumoured £15m marketing spend or discuss the company’s UK market share. He said: ‘UK consumers are at the forefront of new connected entertainment experiences and with Android devices gaining market share, we aim to be a leader in Android-based smartphones in the UK.
‘In this economic climate, we aim to get to market quickly but also ensure we launch the right products, at various price points, to a budget-conscious consumer.’
Time and again, Perron returned to the importance of connecting with other devices: ‘Moving forward, we will deliver the most entertaining smartphones made to watch, listen, play and create. It’s [about] putting the Xperia brand on the map,’ he said.