Frontline Marketing

Inside Panasonic’s Brand Repositioning

Panasonic will soon celebrate its centennial with a brand repositioning that’s shifting their strategy from a basic consumer electronics products provider to one bringing business-and-government integrated technology solutions.

The multinational Japanese electronics corporation runs an $11 billion business portfolio in North America, but if you have plans of purchasing a Panasonic TV, think again, because they have exponentially expanded their non-consumer business, specifically under the following four categories: automated supply chains, sustainable energy, immersive entertainment and connected world.

Panasonic created the taxonomy and solution categories to better share stories about their brand evolution under its latest marketing message, “Technologies That Move Us,” hoping their experience in the consumer market will help its other lines of business begin to boom.

Lauren Sallata, Panasonic USA’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, who leads the corporation’s digital, brand, content and advertising efforts, joined AListDaily to detail how they’re repositioning the company.

Lauren Sallata, Panasonic USA’s CMO and SVP

How do you introduce the Panasonic brand today?

Being a basic consumer electronics products provider is at the bottom of our value pyramid’s hierarchy. The messaging up the food chain, or up the pyramid, so to speak, is around what we’re truly doing, which is integrated technology solutions. That said, this is a tremendous time in our company’s history. We’re a very mission-driven brand. We have a set of business principles that were created by our founder, Kōnosuke Matsushita, 100 years ago—leading with contribution to society first, and supporting employees. I think that’s very much a part of our culture. As we rebuild our brand, and leverage our heritage, we’re just reaching consumers in a different way then we have been in the past—as an enabler through business and government. I think we still have the end user in mind, which is the consumer, it’s just at a slightly different framework and go-to-market approach.

What are the products that Panasonic is marketing and positioning in North America?

We’re very much a holistic provider to consumer businesses and government. We’re still in North America, but we’re not selling televisions anymore at this time. We discontinued sales of TVs about two years ago as part of our transformation. We’re still very much in the consumer business in the US and in Canada with cooktops, cameras, microwaves and grooming products. There’s still very much a base in business consumers. If you look at our capability categories, we’re really more into things like sustainable energy. That means looking at ion batteries for Tesla, or Toyota . . . solar installations, micro-grids, and the like. In the category of the connected world, we’re doing integrated vehicle-to-vehicle technology and vehicle-to-X technology, and connected worlds in places like Denver, Colorado.

How is Panasonic engaging and starting conversations with consumers to spread the word about your brand ethos? How are you reintroducing a legacy brand in the marketplace?

Right now we’re very much in awareness-building. We did a lot of research to optimize, and first and foremost, we needed to tell our business story, because that’s 80-plus percent of the revenue for us in North America. It’s actually business-to-business, and business-to-government. Our consumers represent about 20 percent of our business in North America. We did a lot of research into our buyer set, created those personas and then we matched the media buy, very specifically, to how consumers get information. We landed in a lot of tech, news and sports media outlets. We were heavy on video. We’re seeing a lot of people signing up for newsletters and for more information, which we kind of officially haven’t gotten into as part of the campaign. But we’re seeing early engagement there. . . . The next phase of work we’re doing is bringing it down into the business levels and working and making sense of it for everybody’s different particular market space.

You mention going heavy on video. What have you experimented with?

We’re making 60-30-and-15-second videos on paid social. We skew very heavily with our buyer personas, believe it or not, on Facebook. We’re getting a lot of really good traction there. We’re doing programmatic as well.

What is your marketing approach on social media?

We absolutely are heavy on social, both organic and paid. Right now we’re putting together a pilot program for social selling to bring that into the fold as a strategic growth program. Influencer marketing is absolutely something that’s within the business units—you’ll see a lot of that going on. We’re covered by different influencers and industry analysts, sort of at the business-unit level. We have 10-plus business units in North America, and each of those business units has their own small marketing team. We employed that strategy at the previous two CES [in Las Vegas] just to engage with influencers and bring forward the real story and reality of our company. We’re seeing a lot of lift in engagement and shares when we do use those strategies. I think we do it very surgically.

The Denver Smart City project is one of the projects that aligns with your four categories. What insights can you share? 

It’s going well. We’re continuing to deliver on the commitments that we made for Denver. Most of our development is focused around Peña Station, which is a light rail line going from the Denver International Airport to Union Station in the center of Denver. This 400 acre-development area is like a test bed for the technologies that will be implemented in the smart city. And we have a micro-grid that we’re working on with our partner, Xcel Energy. We’re also implementing other technologies, like smart street lights, which do more than just illuminate, but also providing security and pointing out parking spaces, and a lot of other added value, smart city features.

How is Panasonic empowering creators and inviting them to share their work?

Panasonic plays, invests or sells in some version in nine-of-the-top-12 disruptive technologies—things like robotics, artificial intelligence and energy. We put our $5 billion research and development investment into play every year. There are a number of initiatives being driven out of our parent corporation to engage entrepreneurs and innovators that are largely targeted for millennials. We’ve set up what we call the Wonder Lab, and it’s in Osaka, Japan. It invites incubation, and brings in projects with some level of funding. We recently announced a partnership with the Parsons School of Design to do a collaboration for students that are inventing the next generation of wearable technology pieces and experiences that address wellness needs. Panasonic is holistically focused on the future. Next year will be our 100-year anniversary, so there’s a lot of interest in what the next 100 years after that are going to look like.

What marketing activations can we expect for the centennial birthday? Will this be the opportune time to bring that brand repositioning forward?

Definitely. We’re going to have some big things up our sleeve for CES in January 2018. We’re making these types of investments in the next generation that’s influencing technology and new solutions and new ways to go to market.

You were also a global partner for the Rio Olympics last summer. What were the results that continuing sponsorship yielded?    

I think it’s been a successful partnership for us. It’s been ongoing since the 1988 Games. We have an ongoing relationship and it continues with an eye toward Tokyo in 2020, and beyond. We received a lot of very positive feedback last year from the opening and closing ceremonies and the work that we enabled for both. We’ll absolutely continue that relationship. Collectively we felt that Rio was a success.

You’ve been with Panasonic for a little over a year now, after working four years with Xerox before that. What are some of the big marketing shifts that you’re experiencing in the industry?

I think it’s tact, platforms and programs. All of that is constantly changing. There’s a constant drum beat of marketing technology coming onto the scene. As a marketing leader, you have to understand all of the possibilities, and make decisions about expensive martech purchases. Your tech strategy is also a constant piece of the puzzle, and I don’t think that will be stopping any time soon. Breaking through and getting to your buyer set in a compelling and engaging way is always big. I see the frenzy of marketing automation still very relevant. There are techniques like account-based marketing that are also emerging as more strategic and targeted, especially at a B-to-B or B-to-G level. There’s also a tremendous opportunity with the new programs that LinkedIn is launching since it was acquired by Microsoft last year. I see that as an incredible marketing platform, especially in B-to-B and B-to-G. . . . How do you enable the best possible result? What is that platform or tool? What are the processes and teams that you have to put in place? Where do you double down with your budget? How do you make those difficult choices? . . . You have to figure these things out, get the right tools and processes in place to succeed and know where to best place your bets that align with your marketing strategy.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan