The Walkman was a truly original product, and Sony used innovative methods to launch and advertise it. The staff of the press and public relations divisions wanted to emphasize that Sony was introducing a totally new and fun concept. To do so, they decided to hold the launch event outside and included demonstrations of people listening to the Walkman while roller skating or cycling. They thought that as well as giving impact to the launch; this novel approach would appeal to the journalists attending. It was decided to test this launch style first on a group of magazine journalists.
On June 22, when the journalists arrived at the Sony Building located in the Ginza area of Tokyo, they were escorted onto a bus and each handed a Walkman. They were taken to Yoyogi (a major park in Tokyo) and, after disembarking and receiving a brief greeting, they were instructed to put on the headphones and push the play button. The journalists listened to an explanation of the Walkman in stereo, while Sony staff members and students hired for the launch carried out various demonstrations of the product. The tape the journalists were listening to asked them to look at certain demonstrations, including a young man and woman listening to a Walkman while riding on a tandem bicycle. All staff members and students who were involved in the product demonstrations wore Walkman T-shirts to add to the overall effect of the launch.
As they listened to an explanation of the Walkman, the journalists were able to sample the audio quality of the new product, while seeing what people could do with it. They saw that the 33,000 yen TPS-L2 model enabled people to listen music of their choice, wherever and whenever they liked. For onlookers, a lack of any public announcement or audible sound was rather puzzling. The journalists were surprised at the unusual nature of the Walkman launch event, and this was apparent in their expressions. The response from the press was cool. Although the Walkman went on sale on July 1, as planned, by the end of July only 3,000 units had been sold and doubts about the product resurfaced.
After the launch, staff of the publicity and domestic marketing divisions took a Walkman and spent a day riding busy trains around the center of Tokyo in an attempt to advertise the product. Also, it was decided that people needed to listen to the Walkman to understand the quality of its sound. Consequently, young recruits who had joined Ohsone's division in April of that year were asked to walk around the busy Shinjuku and Ginza districts on Sundays, offering passersby the chance to listen to the Walkman. High school and college festivals and other events were also targeted, and when young people put on the headphones and listened, their skeptical expressions were replaced with ones of delight. In retail outlets, staff was asked to carry around a Walkman with a demo tape and offer customers the chance to listen. And while serving to demonstrate the quality of the sound, Sony made great efforts to overcome the negative public image associated with headphones.
In addition to such grassroots marketing efforts, Sony presented a Walkman to various celebrities and asked them to try it. Magazine photographs of young pop stars listening to a Walkman certainly helped to popularize the product.
There was no large-scale television advertising campaign, but thanks to various publicity strategies, the popularity of the Walkman spread by word of mouth. The initial batch of 30,000 units sold out by the end of August, and thereafter production levels had to be constantly raised to meet consumer demand. For the next six months, shops were consistently selling out, and retailers' previous skepticism over the salability of the Walkman was replaced with pleas for more supplies.
At first, the main buyers of the Walkman were music fans in their mid 20s. However, the popularity of the Walkman spread very quickly to a wider young audience, and it became a fashionable new way to enjoy music. This success had been foreseen not only by Morita but also by some outsiders. When major electrical retailers were showing little interest in the Walkman, young buyers at Marui Department Store, a very popular store among young people, were convinced it would sell and placed an order for 10,000 units.