Making the most of it: Sony turns music player defeat into PR win

The Sony Walkman started the portable music revolution and is still hanging in there

Leading up to Apple's big iPod refresh last week, Sony managed to steal some spotlight as headlines around the Internet proclaimed how the company's Walkman had outsold the iPod for the month of August in Japan. According to a market survey from BCN Ranking, the Walkman holds a 47.8 percent market share, with the iPod now suddenly trailing at 44 percent.

According to BCN's pretty graph, the last time that Sony held an advantage in the music player space was exactly one year before. Then too BCN released similar data, and then too it was just before an iPod refresh.

So if you're expecting an iPod smackdown of the Walkman in the coming weeks, last year's data does indeed point to a resilient next couple of weeks for Apple's new line-up. The week ending last September 13th saw Apple climb from 37 percent for 51 percent, while Sony conversely dropped from 47 percent to 32 percent.

Of course, as many have rightfully pointed out, this whole discussion deserves a humongous asterisk as BCN's data does not tally iPhones as music players. But the amount of press generated by this momentary leapfrog does teach a valuable lesson about stealing some mindshare when there's little hope of winning market share.

I'm not aware of whether or not BCN has any affiliation with Sony, but this survey appears very opportunistically timed and it did result in a ton of quality press that let the world know that Sony is still a major player.

In this case, it's likely that Sony actually benefited from the devotion of the Apple fan base. The most probable explanation of Sony's temporary victory is that with so much buzz swirling around leading up to a September iPod refresh, most consumers just didn't buy iPods in August in the hopes that new ones were on the way.

Two years running Sony has been the lucky recipient of this unusual Apple phenomenon. The company seems acutely aware of this too, rolling out Qriocity, it's challenger to iTunes in Berlin at IFA, just as Apple was gearing up for the iPod event in the U.S.

While the Cupertino marketing juggernaut is in reality damn near unstoppable, the fact that Sony took this small ink battle (thanks to BCN) in such a one-sided music player war should give some hope to aspiring competitors:

Whenever possible, re-frame the Apple fanboys' pre-launch nap to work in your favor.

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