was 31 years ago today that Sony introduced the once-ubiquitous Walkman. I have
a personal connection to that launch since I worked for the public relations
firm that helped make the product a true cultural phenomenon (note: I was only
eight years old at the time. This was before child labor laws had been
& Company devised the P.R. strategy and tactics for the Walkman campaign.
Our overarching theme was simple, but memorable: 'Hearing is believing.'
Geltzer made sure we held massive press conferences in major markets (and, in
those days, one could attract 75 or more reporters to a seminal event like the
Walkman's intro). Howard made sure, though, that these events weren't your
typical, boring technology demonstrations. Instead, he persuaded Sony
executives to bring 75 Walkman prototypes to the event. We handed them out to
reporters as they arrived. Then, on cue, we asked them to place the headphones
over their ears, press play and just listen. The broad smiles, looks of
astonishment and rapid scribbling of words on reporters' notepads told us we
had a hit. And, the Walkman really was, as the Japanese executives liked to
also made sure we distributed Walkmen to every art director at major
advertising agencies, suggesting they use it as a prop in their photospreads.
That was genius. Suddenly, models such as Christie Brinkley and Brooke Shield
(she was older than me at the time, btw) were strutting their stuff sporting a
really hit a home run, though, when New York was crippled by a major subway strike.
He positioned us account types on either end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We handed
out the Walkman product to tired, angry and frustrated commuters who were
walking to and from work, suggesting they listen to their favorite music as
they crossed the legendary bridge. Oh, and he had us pitch all the local and
national media about Sony's 'selfless' gesture to help ease the pain of
worked like a charm.
was part of a team that helped make the Sony Walkman a true cultural happening.
We even had the Walkman placed on permanent display in the Smithsonian.
Sony somehow took its eye off the ball and never really advanced the Sony
Walkman platform. Instead, a guy named Jobs running a company called Apple came
up with something called the iPod. And, that was all she wrote for the Walkman.
I think of the Walkman, I think of Geltzer, and the amazing people who worked
there. What a training ground! It spawned the likes of:
Chris Atkins, head of Standard & Poors corporate communications
Gaye Torrance, who has run her own very successful IR/M&A firm for years
Richard Jones, head of PR at Guardian Life Insurance
Marv Gellman, one of Ketchum's top publicity gurus
Pat Lamb, a top publicist who has been ably serving Sony's hated rival,
Panasonic, for years
Alec Shapiro who, ironically, is now a top muckety muck at Sony
Lorraine Raguseo who, sources tell me, now consults to New York State wineries.
Talk about a sweet job.
Angela Cody, who reported to me on the Sony account at Geltzer and to whom I've
been reporting ever since
Walkman may have faded into oblivion, but the Geltzer/Sony team remains one of
the best with whom I've ever had the pleasure to work.
the Walkman, hearing was indeed believing. And, at Geltzer, doing was learning.
I arrived as a green-as-grass account executive and departed as a battle-tested
vice president ready to take on new challenges. Looking back, I couldn't
imagine a better training academy for public relations professionals.