Don Mesa, Sony Mobile’s VP of marketing, sat down with AList at MWC19 to discuss 5G’s effect on marketing, the redefining of Sony and measuring brand effectiveness.

What would you say is Sony Mobile’s core message is in 2019?

Redefined. I think it starts with the Sony Group. It used to be the case where a lot of us didn’t talk so much with each other; we just had a name that we shared. These days—especially this year at CES—our group, CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, talked about the notion of this creative entertainment company that Sony is now. At first glance, it was a little bit hard to understand what that meant but what he was getting at was the idea of convergence between our entertainment assets with our professional grade technology and finding a way to create that convergence and synergy between each other.

Where in the past, entertainment is entertainment, technology is technology, but how do we combine this and become a new force? That is redefining at the group level and then we are taking it to our level at Sony Mobile.

That’s how we’re looking at Xperia—being redefined. Honestly, we can be the embodiment of that. The requirements for content drive us at the high end and we need to make sure we are meeting that at the technical level with the mobile phone.

Do you think that mobile, in terms of marketing, has become the most important place for consumer’s eyes?

The phone has become your own personal screen and it has your life in it. You’re always going to look at it and it’s certainly a place where they have all the attention. It’s your personal phone; it’s your personal life. How much of that can be fed with promotional information? That is the true challenge. You certainly don’t want to be blasted with advertising, especially when you’re trying to find some personal stuff and “Boom!”–it hits you.

As a manufacturer, when you hand over the phone to the consumer, whatever they do with it, becomes them, right?

It becomes a personal self. For us, when we are working with the top end creators, whether it’s in film, TV, or games, we are not talking about just simple “oh, just put out some video.” We are working with guys who are making Jumanji and Spiderman, so they’re a little picky about a lot of things. We need to make sure we are catering to their needs. And cater to what they feel is the most pristine look and feel of their products. I certainly binge a lot on Netflix on my phone now, and regardless of where I’m at—playing Clash of Clans—it’s something you’re personally invested in and immersed in.

We want to value that time that you’re putting in there. By looking at sheer utility is not how we can see this because we know we are working with our sister companies that are saying, “Look, this is what we value,” so we have got to make sure that we have similar values all across.

How do you think 5G will affect marketing? Can you think of the applications that can come from it?

The values that 5G can bring to the table are things like location-based and real-time activity and there is a lot more interactivity, wherever you are. I think these days, the freedom of being able to speak is not something you can just prepackage; you can’t just take your time and say [that] we are going to have the perfect message, perfect look and feel. You’ve got to be instant.

We see a lot of that’s happening already: a lot of people are already filming and creating their content and doing their promotions in their way, but that’s at the ground level—grassroots level. But how do you look at formalizing that and still [remains] authentic and instantaneous, wherever you are, and yet get that message across? I think there is a lot of creativity in being interactive, but you have to be authentic. You can’t just manufacture a statement; you have to make sure that you’re living the brand, that you’re connected with the brand, and that speaks a lot to Sony’s core values.

Are you working with influencers?

We hadn’t in the past; we are certainly doing that now. That has a lot to do with what our devices can enable people [to do]—the camera especially. In fact, the person who was behind the Alpha camera series and our RX camera series is now the head of development on our side. He actually brought the Alpha camera technology. We have professional camera stuff in here. It’s like you have your own little personal studio. You can film your content, edit it and you can output it right on the spot. It’s amazing how much technology has come with the phone. All these things that used to be separate pieces are converging into one.

Do you believe its harder than ever to control a brand’s identity or messaging?

The brand itself has to have that equity and it does have to stand for something. [Brands] also have to refresh it. It will resonate for a generation, but here is a new generation, what does that mean now? For us, [it means that] we have to look at our core values constantly. What do we stand for? Who are we talking to? What is that model? What is that driving force for us? I think that’s when we know what the driving force is for the generation we are speaking to; that’s when we know we can put it in their hands and let them do the talking.

As a marketer and VP, how do you abandon micromanagement? 

A lot of trial and error. It’s always hard to let go. If you’re able to keep the focus simple, you remind [your employees] what’s the core, what’s the value proposition, who you are talking to and what are they doing that’s different. I look for the people that can and have their voice. I want to hear your voice, let that come out. What is your story? I certainly can’t do what younger people are doing now. Especially with all the tools that they have. I think seeing what they’re capable of doing is what excites me, so I’ll tell them, “Hey here is your box. So long as you’re hitting these marks, this is who we are trying to talk to. Here is what we stand for. Where do you take it from that point? It’s ok to make a mistake—I’ll help correct and guide—but let’s see what you can do.”

How do you measure brand effectiveness?

It’s certainly about the engagement, so I am looking at the likes, the shares, the comments, and at the same time, I’m looking at the level of resonance that is happening when we put something out there. I’m ok if only 1,000 people are looking at our stuff. If we have consistency. We know we have a base to start with, then [we] are building from there. I don’t mind the waves—the ups and downs—but I want to make sure that we are consistently building a base.

What areas of marketing technology are you investing your time and part of your budget in?

I’m going a little old school, I guess. I’m going back to touchpoint marketing, where activations are empowered by collaborations. You know how those hip hop artists who are all you have three of them on one record and they all have their parts, but that thing is a hit and hits each rapper’s base? I’m applying that at the ground level whether I’m doing, [whether it is] activations at a red carpet with one of Sony Pictures’ properties or I’m at a music festival.

It must be nice to be able to work with Sony’s entire family.

It’s fun and it’s very creative because I can’t do the same thing every time. I did pick that up from the gaming site; gamers quickly move on to the next thing. You can’t just rehash. I’m just happy that I can actually go back and still do event activations, but just do it in a different flavor. These days people need to have that hands on. You get the information going around digitally and over the air, but getting on the ground and getting people to feel the legitimacy to it, the tangible aspect—I think there is room for that now. Everyone wants memories and it has to be on the spot.