But now, through Fallon London's £70 million pound pan-European campaign, the brand seems finally to have developed that all-important personal touch.
Fallon's brief, when it won the business back in November, was to warm up the traditionally formal brand while converting consumers to the idea of using Sony generically inside the home.
With so many different Sony products on offer, the advertising needed to appeal to the mass market via a multimedia approach. The agency then offset this necessity to reach a large, diverse audience with a new endline ("You make it a Sony") that would speak to the consumer on a warmer, more personal level.
Through this statement, the advertising makes the point that Sony customers are vital to getting the most out of the products. This unifying brand message may also help Sony crack the issue of product connectivity.
As the line between work tools and play tools begins to blur, it was essential that Sony moved its established "luxury" brands forward, not only to continue competing with Samsung and Philips, but also to begin challenging networked products such as Apple and Motorola.
Fallon's first offering for Sony was for the Wega home entertainment system, which is aimed principally at 25- to 44-year-old males. Two 40-second TV ads, which broke in June, showcase the product. They feature Hollywood technicians and a special effects duo who arrive on the doorstep to thank the owners for watching their work on such high-quality equipment.
The Wega TV campaign is confined to the UK but in Europe, the media mix includes a press element that is running across lifestyle magazines, along with hi-fi and TV specialist trade titles. Media planning and buying is handled by OMD Europe.
The media schedule has been organised to launch as much advertising as possible at the same time. This is to create impact and to make the consumer aware of the shift of emphasis at brand level.
Also released this summer is a set of three TV executions by Fallon to promote Sony's latest digital camera, the Cyber-shot. The ads aim to reflect the ease with which the camera can be used, while continuing the brand theme that it is the people who use and enjoy Sony's products who increase the quality of them.
Most recently Sony has launched an interactive viral campaign for its latest range of personal listening products, in particular the Atrac CD Walkman through a website (www.canttelthedifference.com). Sony chose viral activity as the best way to talk to avid music fans, in particular those who haven't yet begun exploring the idea of downloading their music from the internet. Four interactive virals have been released on Eatmail, a pan-European database with more than 15,000 members. The viral campaign was created by the American animation company Jib Jab. The PR company Cake was responsible for the dissemination of the viral.
Tim Kaner, Sony's director of marketing communications in Europe, said: "The Sony Walkman brand has always been synonymous with youth and music. This viral campaign not only reinforces these attributes but fuses them with the principles of Sony's umbrella 'You make it a Sony' proposition, demonstrating that it is the consumers that use and enjoy our products that make them what they are."
The creative work behind the campaign, which is called "Can't tell the difference", is based around the theory that a Sony Walkman can supply all the music you want , but it requires the listener to provide the taste.
Once again, the advertising reinforces the Sony brand message of "You make it a Sony". The ads will be broadcast across music TV channels throughout Europe and music festivals, including V2003 (held in August at two sites in the UK) and at a range of MTV's annual outdoor events that are taking place this summer.
An educational CD-ROM has also been developed, which promotes the possibilities of accessing a wide variety of music on the internet. This takes the idea of interacting with Sony advertising one stage further. In using media that involves the consumer in Sony's world, it is taking the first step in fulfiling its new brand promise.