The agreement with Agrod naturally called for use of the Sony trademark. This was something Morita had always insisted on, and it was to prove extremely significant.
Most Japanese radio manufacturers at that time sold their products in the US under an American maker's brand name. In those days, the only Japanese products accepted in their own right as high-quality items were Nikon and Canon cameras. On other goods, the label "Made in Japan" termed synonymous with cheap junk. Totsuko took the bull by the horns and risked using its own brand name because it wanted to make Sony products known and admired around the world. Moreover, Totsuko was confident that it could achieve this.
The end of 1957 witnessed another event that boosted the visibility of the Totsuko brand name: a Sony neon sign in Sukiyabashi. This site was especially significant as it marked the hub of Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.
From 1955, when Totsuko first began using the Sony name, brand recognition had been slowly gaining ground. Ibuka and the management were constantly aware of the need to make their name better known----in short, to advertise. And if they were going to invest in a neon sign, it had better be in a prominent place. While they were making inquiries here and there, they learned from one of their advertising agencies that they could rent space on the Sukiyabashi corner (where the Sony Building now stands). It was a shabby building, but a great location. Sukiyabashi Bridge, made famous overnight by a radio serial, was still in existence. It was a place that everyone in the country knew about.
Totsuko had its site. The sign was next. First Totsuko studied Morita's home movies of the neon lights and billboards of Broadway. Each was striking in its own way: the famous Camel sign with its smoker puffing out perfect smoke rings; Pepsi Cola's showpiece with its hundreds of thousands of lights; and Admiral TV's news flashes, to name a few. Resolving to match these in splendor, the company commissioned designs from four leading neon sign makers in Japan. They reviewed the resulting 19 designs over a four-day period, reaching a decision in the boardroom on October 20. But there was little time to congratulate themselves, as the team had strict instructions to have the sign up by December 10. The Sukiyabashi building which was to display the sign had been left in bad shape by the war and required considerable reinforcement. Furthermore, the wall was still occupied by Singer Sewing Machine and Furuya Caramel signs which the advertisers were supposed to have taken down. With these and other problems to contend with, work was continually delayed until there were only 20 days left for the construction. It was a real rush job.
The lighting ceremony took place on a freezing December 19. The assembled employees waited, wrapped in blankets, to see the sign illuminated. At 5:01 p.m. Ibuka threw the switch and the neon Sony sign sparkled against the night sky.
The giant sign measured 9.75x10.9m and weighed 2,250kg. Each letter of the word SONY weighed 262.5kg. The cost, including the steel reinforcement and space rental, ran to approximately 20 million yen. Despite its cost, the sign would soon prove its worth. By sheer good fortune, on New Year's Eve the giant Sony ad was relayed by NHK television throughout Japan. What a publicity break! Just as an annually televised singing contest was followed by a rendition of "Ring Out the Old Year, Ring in the New," the neon sign flashed onto the screen as an example of a nighttime scene in Tokyo. Ibuka, who was watching the program, was delighted. Totsuko had just recouped its costs.