PlayStation brand strategy / positioning case study

BrandStruck
PlayStation Brand Strategy Analysis
PlayStation
ABOUT

Category:
Electronics & technologyvideo game consoles, VR & AR devices; Media & entertainmentgames, streaming services

Owner of the brand:
Sony Corporation

Key competitors:
Xbox, Nintendo

Brand essence

The most immersive gaming experience.

Brand values

Innovation, immersiveness, adventure, fun.

Brand character

Bold, daring, provocative, irreverent, pioneering, surprising, edgy.

Dominating archetype
EVIDENCE
Comments
1

Although the PlayStation brand derives part of its character from the Sony masterbrand (with particular focus on building the “wow” factor, creating new experiences and igniting curiosity and imagination), it is an endorsed brand and, as such, has its own identity. In the past, Sony played a bigger role in PlayStation’s branding; currently it is only a “shadow endorser”. Meanwhile, PlayStation has evolved into an umbrella brand itself – it offers various products and sub-brands targeted at different audiences, some more mainstream (e.g., PlayStation Music enabling the use of Spotify on PlayStation or PlayStation Vita – a handheld game console) and some more niche services (e.g., PlayStation Plus – a subscription service for online players, enabling people to use multiplayer modes or PlayStation VR – a virtual reality system).

2

PlayStation’s brand strategy and messaging have changed a few times since the brand launched in 1994. The PS One and PS2 communication was targeted mostly at game players and revolved around the idea of PlayStation representing another world (“the third place” – a phrase used also by Starbucks) and enabling people to live a parallel life – more adventurous but less moral. This concept is best captured in the famous “Double Life”[1] advert created for the European market in the late 1990s. For some time, fun was also one of the key pillars of the brand communication (“fun, anyone?”) best envisioned in another famous ad, “Mountain”[2]. With the PS3, PlayStation attempted to attract a wider audience and focused on educating people that it is not only a gaming console but an entire entertainment system – the messaging resembling that of Xbox One.

3

PlayStation is currently positioned as the most immersive gaming experience. This strategy was applied for both the PS4 and the PS5, but the PS4’s messaging was much more focused on seasoned video gamers (“we’re for the players”)  than that of the PS5. The emphasis on the players was a factor differentiating the PS4 from its main competitor, Microsoft‘s Xbox. At that time, Xbox One was targeted at casual gamers and its initial messaging to a big extent centred on the multiple functionalities of the console. It was positioned as an all-encompassing entertainment system for the living room[3] enabling people to play games, watch TV or take a Skype call. Guy Longworth, PlayStation’s former SVP, Marketing told Fast Company: “The digital entertainment is important, and we have a robust, solid roster of entertainment, but for us the strategy was to highlight the fantastic gaming experience and demonstrate it’s the best place to play if you’re a gamer.[4]
The PS4 brand guidelines described the character of the brand as “emotive, immersive, irreverent, celebratory, unexpected and fearless”[5]

4

Sony promoted the PS4 with a tagline, “Greatness awaits”, emphasizing the fact that a gamer can feel like the hero of a story, regardless of what game he or she plays. Longworth explained: When gamers are playing games, they’re the hero in whatever game they’re playing. What they love are the great achievements that are available to them on PS4. In real life, most folks don’t get to drive a Grand Prix car, or battle against dragon, or go into space. On PS4 you can really have those experiences and achieve true greatness.[6]
The approach to marketing the PS5 was slightly different. Although the main message was also focused on immersive experiences, the brand no longer highlighted the ‘for the gamers’ message, but rather suggested that it is for everybody (e.g., its launch campaign accentuated that “we are all explorers”[7]). “Play has no limits” was chosen as the new tagline, capturing the revised strategy.

 

5

PlayStation’s brand equity is so rich that it includes elements of multiple archetypes without being inconsistent: the Explorer (immersive experiences, escaping real life and exploring new worlds), the Jester (fun and entertainment), the Hero (“Greatness awaits”, challenges and mission), Magician (transformative character, vision of a parallel, magical world) or Creator (creativity and imagination). However, at its core, PlayStation is primarily an Outlaw brand, which keeps on revolutionizing the gaming market, has a bold and provocative tone of voice and prides itself on being irreverent and fearless.

Tagline
Most important campaigns

1. “Play Has No Limits” (2021)

2. Introducing PlayStation Flow | April Fools Video” (2020)

3. “Days Of Play” (2017)

4. “PlayStation 4 Perfect Day” (2013)

5. “Mountain” (2003)

6. “Double Life” (1999)

Official brand statement:

Recognized as a global leader in interactive and digital entertainment, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is responsible for the PlayStation® brand and family of products and services. PlayStation has delivered innovation to the market since the launch of the original PlayStation in Japan in 1994.

The PlayStation family of products and services include PlayStation®5, PlayStation®4, PlayStation®VR, PlayStation™Store, PlayStation®Plus, PlayStation™Video, PlayStation™Music, PlayStation™Now, and acclaimed PlayStation software titles from PlayStation Studios.

Headquartered in San Mateo, California, SIE is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Group Corporation and has global functions in California, London, and Tokyo.[8]

Interesting facts:

In 2007, PlayStation ran a campaign in India using the tagline: “Because your girlfriend bores you shitless”.[9]

The symbols used on the PlayStation joypad buttons constitute one of the key PlayStation brand assets, and being used often in its communication, are not random. The triangle was supposed to represent the player’s point of view, the square – a piece of paper (for in-game documents), the circle was meant to stand for “yes / correct” and the X for “no / wrong”.[10]

Must-reads

1. The Drum on the “Play Has No Limits” campaign
J. Glenday, “Sony PlayStation Thrills With Epic Cityscape Chess Battle In New Ad”, The Drum, Sep 2021,
https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/09/10/sony-playstation-thrills-with-epic-cityscape-chess-battle-new-ad

2. AdAge on the PS5 launch
I. Liffreing, “Sony’s PlayStation 5 Outspent Microsoft’s Xbox Series X Three To One In Launch Ads”, Ad Age, Dec 2020,
https://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/sonys-playstation-5-outspent-microsofts-xbox-series-x-three-one-launch-ads/2298636 

3. Adweek on the “Missed Details” campaign
S. Miller, “A Vampire’s Bloodlust Gets Clock-Blocked In PlayStation’s Fun Ad About Distracting Details”, Adweek, Oct 2018,
https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/a-vampires-bloodlust-gets-clock-blocked-in-playstations-fun-ad-about-distracting-details/

4. Compilation of the best PlayStation ads
F. Dutton, “20 PlayStation TV Adverts From Our 20 Year History – How Many Do You Remember?”, PlayStation Blog, Dec 2014,
https://blog.eu.playstation.com/2014/12/02/20-tv-adverts-tell-20-year-history-playstation/

Sources:
References:
SIMILAR BRANDS

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