Marketing Strategy of Sharp Corp in Competitive LCD Market

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The premise of the “More to See” theme was that, just as television was the most powerful storytelling device (with perhaps a tip of the hat to cinema), Sharp’s Aquos product line offered the most advanced televisions, providing viewers with a more vivid experience through its superior color, detail, and sound. One of the campaign’s five television spots showed people-a mother dressing her daughter, a man cooking, an audience at a movie theater-going about their lives with their eyes closed. Finally a woman opened her eyes in an art museum in front of Victor Meirelles’s painting Battle of Guararapes. A voice-over then said, “The Sharp Aquos liquid crystal television. Suddenly there’s more to see.” Some critics took exception to the underlying concept. Writing in Brandweek, Barry Janoff commented, “Taking the spot’s premise literally means to imply that people can’t really see or appreciate their lives unless television is there to help them. And, more so, they won’t truly value their own lives unless they trade in their ordinary TVs for an Aquos. Of course, Sharp can’t tell people to get out and enjoy life by turning off their TVs.”

The message of “More to See” may have been simplistic and even illogical, but the method by which the centerpiece of the campaign was delivered was as innovative as Sharp’s LCD technology. The campaign was more than multifaceted; it was in many ways an example of interactive fiction, using the different elements-television spots, print ads, websites, and an “alternate reality game” contest-to engage the audience and keep it involved in the campaign for months on end. Such an approach was intended to counteract the resistance that consumers had built up to 30-second commercials after years of being bombarded by them, not to mention the ability of digital-video-recorder owners to skip over commercials. The pioneering effort in this type of promotion was the independent film The Blair Witch Project, which created a buzz by dropping hints in the media that the film was a student documentary project that went horribly awry. The curious were led to the producer’s website, and a large number of people began to debate among themselves whether the “found footage” of the student filmmakers was real or fake. When the low-budget film opened, it became the surprise hit of the summer of 1999, generating an impressive $150 million in domestic box-office sales.

Sharp engaged the services of the Blair Witch producers, Haxan Films, to help create the mystery story around which the “More to See” marketing campaign and contest would revolve. The resulting tale was called “Legend of the Sacred Urns,” and consumers were invited to solve the mystery of where an eccentric millionaire had hidden three prized urns. The three television commercials that developed the storyline-“The Key,” “The Pool,” and “The Tooth”-weaved a “cinematic mystery,” in the words of Shoot magazine’s Bill Dunlap, “set in a country estate, involving a beautiful woman, an older man in a swimming pool and a careless driver in a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.” Marcus Robinson, writing for Boards Magazine, offered his own summary of the setup: “A guy, Peter Lindeman, is swimming in the pool of his big French chateau, and his babe girlfriend wanders out on the road to meet her lover. Unfortunately, he’s massaging a toothache and had his eyes on the rear view, which forces him to swerve to avoid hitting her. He ends up launching his red sports car into the pool.”

All three spots showed the same incident from a different point of view. In “The Pool,” for example, a woman from a bedroom window watched Lindeman swimming in the pool when a car suddenly flew through the air and landed in the water. A Sharp television was then shown, and on its screen viewers were directed to the campaign’s website, The site provided audio and visual clues, and featured blogs, purportedly written by the three characters engaged in the hunt for the three mystery urns. Chat rooms were also available for people to ponder the mystery together. Once viewers were at the website, they had to opportunity to learn more about LCD technology and Sharp’s Aquos line of televisions. Participants were also directed to other websites to uncover clues. The spots were directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, whose credits included Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.

The television spots began airing in September 2004 and were shown on a variety of network and cable programming, including ABC’s Monday Night Football and CBS’s 60 Minutes. The “More to See” campaign also included print ads, executed by Wieden & Kennedy’s Amsterdam office, that also attempted to drive people to the website. After starting in the United States, “More to See” was rolled out to 18 other countries. In an ancillary component of the campaign, Sharp opened a storefront in New York City, where consumers could experience the Aquos product line and where further clues were made available. The campaign ran for four months, through the critical holiday season, with bits of the mystery parceled out over time. In the end, Ken Floss of Ohio solved the puzzle and won the grand prize, an Aquos television and other home theater equipment.

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