Sony Corporation is a multi-faceted manufacturing and entertainment business who has been around for over 70 years, originally known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha in 1946 (Sony 2015 Annual Report). Sony is a publicly traded organization and, therefore, has its annual report published each year for public consumption. This article reviews the format and content of that report.
Sony has room for improvement with their annual report–especially in regards to their cover page. It needs a facelift! Sony appears to be using the government’s form 20-F provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It may be required to fill out that form, however, it does not need to be the final version posted to Sony’s website. Right away, the first thing you see is a jumbled and crowed title page:
Source: Image of Sony’s 2015 Annual Report. (2016). FORM 20-F. Sony Corporation. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/313838/000119312516624169/d168822d20f.htm#tx168822_9
The company website claims, “Sony creates and delivers more entertainment experiences to more people than anyone else on earth” (Company Info); this should be portrayed in the annual report. The annual report is a prime opportunity for Sony to sell themselves to their investors and potential investors. They need to let some of their personality and culture show through this report. Below are a couple snapshots from annual reports that show some character:
JetBlue’s annual report only had a little bit of character shine through via images, however, their information is so well-organized and well-written, that it makes it an easy read. American Woodmark is an extreme example. Their character shines through on every page. There are images of the people who work there and of the product, constantly reminding investors what they are all about and why they should continue investing in the company’s future. Sony could take a page out of their book and show images of their employees and of the many different facets of their business (electronics & mobile, film & television, music, games, digital services, and other businesses).
Sony’s annual report has a great deal of quality information. The content aspect of the annual report is on the right track. There is quantitative and qualitative information, as well as forward-looking statements and honest reviews of competitive analysis. One of the many things missing is a letter from the president of the company. That personal touch goes a long way in relaying the strategy and vision of the company. It would serve Sony well to start adding a CEO letter at the beginning of each annual report.
More importantly, the formatting of this content is severely lacking. Sony’s annual report is hard to read and desperately needs more headings and white space to help guide the readers’ eyes. Creating efficient formatting of the report will make the overwhelming amount of content easier to navigate and comprehend.
In this next year, Sony needs to rethink the way they deliver their annual report. Annual reports are not just a vehicle to display financial data for a company. Annual reports are a marketing piece all of their own. Sony needs to put time and effort into creating a quality report that shows who they are, what their principles and values are, what their mission is, and what their strategy is for attaining that vision.
Annual reports should market not only to investors and would-be investors, but to customers, potential customers, and even prospective talent. That’s right, annual reports can be used to attract future employees–the best and brightest! In a way, Sony does this with their forward-looking statements, but it is not enough itself. A CEO letter could set this up, followed later by short sections about work-place culture, community projects/volunteer opportunities, work-life balance, future expansions, and potential projects. This would show the long-term goals Sony has for continued growth and the importance of its employees. Thereby giving investors and customers something to look forward to and more reason for them to invest.
By not using the Annual Report to market, Sony is missing out on an opportunity to gain trust and tighten existing loyalty. It is ironic that Sony sets out to entertain people, but puts little to no effort in this large, annual publication. Sony should see the annual report as an extension of their corporate identity and make an effort to display this through quality content and meaningful images of their employees working and giving back to the community, as well as images of their products and services. Finally, a letter from the President of Sony would add a personal touch and show what is important to him/her by what they choose to write about (corporate social responsibility efforts, community outreach, innovative products, added employee benefits, improved workplace culture, etc.).
American Woodmark 2016 Annual Report. (2016). Retrieved October 8, 2016 from http://www.snl.com/interactive/newlookandfeel/4580151/AR_2016.pdf
Company Info. (2016). Sony Corporation of America. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from https://www.sony.com/en_us/SCA/index.html
JetBlue 2015 Annual Report. (2016). Investor. Retrieved October8, 2016 from http://investor.jetblue.com/~/media/Files/J/Jetblue-IR/Annual%20Reports/2015-ar-10k.pdf
Sony 2015 Annual Report. (2016). FORM 20-F. Sony Corporation. Retrieved October 8, 2016 from https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/313838/000119312516624169/d168822d20f.htm#tx168822_9