Technology - Sony Ericsson viral launches Xperia X1

Campaign: Sony Ericsson - Xperia X1 and Johnny X launch Client: Sony Ericsson PR team: Burson-Marsteller and in-house Timescale: August-September 2008 Budget: Up to £120,000

Xperia X1: Sony Ericsson's new offering
Xperia X1: Sony Ericsson's new offering


Sony Ericsson's newest brand and handset is the Xperia X1 - a mobile phone with a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the underside of the phone. When it planned the release, the firm decided on a global web-based PR campaign to support the launch of its online digital campaign.

The campaign was based around 'Johnny X', the latest in alternative web-based thrillers to hit the internet, and was designed to target the kind of audience that would be interested in buying an Xperia X1.

The Sony Ericsson global communications team briefed Burson-Marsteller in August 2008 to develop and implement 'Johnny X' in time for the 15 September launch date.


- To develop tactics to support the Johnny X campaign, ensuring they were relevant to the key markets initially launching the Xperia X1

- To drive people to the Johnny X and Xperia websites

- To build product knowledge and raise awareness of the Xperia brand and X1 handset

- To build premium credentials of the new Xperia brand

- To raise the profile of Sony Ericsson as an industry and technology leader.


Over a two-week period, Burson-Marsteller developed a range of tactical ideas that could be implemented within the time frame and reach as wide a global audience as possible.

The agency knew a digital PR campaign would ensure wide global outreach, drive people to the Sony Ericsson websites and generate international coverage.

First, Sony Ericsson hosted, via a live global webcast, the world premiere of its 'alternative reality thriller' Johnny X. It used the occasion to give the first live, in-depth, demonstration of the Xperia X1 ahead of its global launch.

Using digital channels to launch a global product meant Burson-Marsteller was also able to quickly distribute materials for different markets for local media. As well as the webcast it developed a media e-card and teaser site, as well as press packs, webcast media briefing documents, and a Johnny X question and answer session.

The press packs included lifestyle photography of the Xperia X1, two feature articles, spokespeople videos, biographies and Q&A factsheets, a Software Developer Kit, and product images.

It also distributed an event overview and toolkit to enable markets to reach journalists in a short space of time.


After face-to-face briefings with journalists and the webcast, coverage appeared in Reuters, BBC Interactive, Marketing,, Tent TV, and on the newsfeeds of Gartner, Canalys, Informa, Frost & Sullivan and Strategy Analytics.

In total, 463 articles were published online and in print around the world between 15 September and 15 October 2008, with evaluation of the coverage estimating a total opportunities to see figure of 73 million.


More than 4,290 people logged into the live webcast, and more than 106,000 page views were racked up between it and the Xperia page on YouTube.

Like all mobile phone companies, Sony Ericsson will not give out sales figures, but head of global communications and PR Aldo Liguori said the campaign generated 'huge consumer interest' in the new handset.

'Following the Johnny X and Xperia X1 launch campaign in September, we sold out the initial batches of the handsets we had shipped in a number of markets and demand is even stronger now than a few months ago,' says Liguori.


Chris Klopper, CEO and founder, Mulberry Marketing Communications

Presented with such a beautifully shot, action-packed film and backed with such a whopping budget, it would have been difficult to see how this campaign could have failed for Sony's new Xperia 1 handset.

I appreciate the way the film has been broken into nice size segments for YouTube, and I can see genius at work in how the hip styling of the phone and its impressive functionality is shown extremely well throughout the virals. However, I am left feeling that the supporting PR campaign is a little, well, traditional.

I would have done more outreach to influential social media participants. For example, one journalist who contributes YouTube reviews of mobile phones had more than 400,000 views of their review of the Xperia - nearly four times more than Burson-Marsteller claims saw its videos.

Since it was supposed to be a digital campaign, I would have specifically targeted many more bloggers, by using Technorati, digg, stumbleupon or some other blog rating engine to identify influential ones who write about technology generally or mobile phones more specifically.

They should also have set up a group on Facebook for fans of the phone at the very least. Also how about giving Johnny X a Twitter profile too and make him a tech expert to share with, and engage potential influencers.

However, industry analyst Mobile Mavens reports that the Xperia is a big hit, so kudos to Burson-Marsteller.

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