What Caused The Downfall Of Betamax?

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When a company introduces a new product, there is never a guarantee that it will be a hit with the public. Some variables such as determining the proper target market, packaging, advertising, and product quality all affect the eventual outcome of how successful a new product will be. According to Robert McMath of the Failed Products Museum, only about five percent of new products actually end up on store shelves (Jerome, 2000). Some additional factors that can be attributed to a new products failure are: it offered no advantage over the existing brands currently on the market, little or no interest from retailers to carry the product, lack of brand identity in an image driven category, ignorance of buyer behaviors, and misleading positioning of the products goal (Gruca, 2003). This paper will look at Sony Betamax, the evolution of the product, the demise of the product and what Sony could have done differently to make it a success.

Sony introduced the first Betamax combination TV and Betamax system in 1975 and the first stand-alone video cassette recorder (VCR) in 1976 as the model SL-7200 (CED, 2006). The stand-alone unit initially sold successfully in the U.S. for $1,295.00. An optional external clock to set recording times came at the request of Sony's then CEO, Akio Morita (CED, 2006). Previous models included an internal clock, but Morita believed that by having an external clock, should it malfunction, repairs could be made without having to bring the whole VCR to the repair shop. The external clock was mistake number one of many made by Sony; VHS (Video Home System) VCR's made by JVC hit the market in 1977 and offered an internal clock and much cleaner look, giving VHS a much needed marketing advantage. The interest in th...

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...was needed. With pre-recorded movies and blank recording tapes extremely hard to find, consumers naturally chose to use the products that were more easily accessible. By reducing costs, Sony could have made up what they would have lost in decreased prices with an increased volume of sales.

The result of all this is that Sony had a significant advantage over their competition, but let it slip away by not recognizing consumer needs and striving to meet them. Competing products that are not compatible with each other must accurately determine the most important element of success, which is having the majority of the market share and being the product of choice since they can not co-exist; in this case it was the stand-alone VCR unit. Sony failed to recognize that, and as VHS systems became the unit of choice, taking the full market share and consumers away from Betamax.

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