Sony is a household name, and you might think that the company would not have to work on their brand image. The truth is, they probably don't.
As advertisers and marketers know, brands are precious entities requiring nurturing, maintenance, and attention. Smart marketers spend more to ensure their brand's health than on individual products, realizing that no matter what they sell, it is the all-encompassing brand image that determines how companies will weather the long term.
It should come as no surprise then that Sony has spearheaded an innovative recycling project that reuses their gigantic, colorful billboards to make, of all things, jeans. In the fall of 2009, Sony teamed with Hakuhodo Kettle to come up with Recycle Project Jeans, an "upcycling" effort.
Upcycling is taking what otherwise would be waste material and converting it to better quality materials with a higher environmental value.
Isn't that the same as recycling? No, not really. William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book, "Cradle to Cradle," describes recycling as the process of taking a material, like aluminum, and changing it into another form.
However, the recycling process, according to the authors, downgrades the quality of a recycled material. Upcycling maintains -- or improves -- materials, instilling them with a higher value.
Billboards measuring 14 feet by 48 feet (672 square feet) are made of vinyl, which has been used to make shopping bags, hand bags, and even sacks for food products, like rice.
Sony decided to take the billboard material recycling effort up a level, transforming the huge "fabric swatches" into jeans.
These one-of-a-kind jeans might also be considered collector's items. A billboard then with low value transforms into products with high value.
Sony took it one step further and decided to recapitalize on their great idea.
Rather than releasing the jeans to the public, the company hung them from the side of the Sony Building in Tokyo. The jeans were up for sale, and shoppers could view the entire collection and choose a pair. A Sony "mountain climber" would scale the wall and retrieve the chosen pair.
Profits from the sale of the upcycled jeans covered the cost of the entire advertising campaign, but Sony didn't keep the profits. Instead, the company donated the money to an effort dedicated to restoring global landmarks.
From a branding perspective, this is genius.
Sony is viewed as an environmentally conscious company that takes items with low intrinsic value, transforms them into high-value items, and keeps the effort going by using the profits to support another effort bent on restoring value. There are not any losers.
Sure, Sony could have used the money to pay for the campaign and stopped at that point, but they did not. Sony gave the money away, capitalizing on the key fact that brands influencing culture sell more.