Marketing, influencers, technology and the photograhy revolution of 2018.
Everyone likes a nice picture. Whether it is seen on the cover of a magazine, on a bus bench, a billboard or on your Instagram feed, a photograph tells a story that can be both monetarily and sentimentally invaluable.
It is for that reason that I do not really understand how the technological revolution of this past summer received almost no media coverage. The summer of 2018 will likely go down in photography history (for all six of the people who track it) as one of the most significant periods because Canon Incorporated and Nikon Incorporated, two of the largest camera manufacturers in the world, released brand new mirror-less full frame cameras, at price points that consumer-level photographers can afford.
Mirrorless cameras have a number of advantages over most DSLRs, like lighter weights and cheaper lenses. Full frame cameras, similarly, have a number of advantages over their crop-sensor counterparts. The image quality is simply much better, and that reason alone is often enough for people to upgrade to full frame. The picture on my home page was taken with a full frame camera. However, it must be mentioned that there are many variables that determine what camera type or model people will buy. How much can they afford to spend? What work would they need the new technology for, or are they just buying for recreational use?
The new models that Canon and Nikon released have tried to bridge the gap between cost and performance. This is a gap that many camera manufacturers had been slow to address. The fact is, Canon decided to offer their new EOS R camera for $3,400, including what should be a fantastic lens. Nikon decided to offer their new Z6-Series camera for $2,800, with what will also likely be a fantastic lens. This is incredible because when the last huge camera technology revolution happened (the release of Canon's original 5D model in 2005), that camera setup cost more than $4,500, after being adjusted for inflation. This put it out of reach for most consumers.
When Canon and Nikon released these cameras to the market this summer, they did so in the way that tech companies usually do. They targeted people with audiences. Canon flew dozens of online photography influencers to Maui and let them play with the cameras for a weekend. Unfortunately, they limited access to the cameras themselves, and did not let the influencers keep the images they took, according to Tony and Chelsea Northrup, a photographer couple who have made names for themselves reviewing gear. Jared Polin, another YouTube influencer, said that the Nikon release event had similar issues in his vlog; photographers were allowed to keep their images, but were not able to process or share their images externally.
So what should they have done? Dr. Gina Luttrell is the author of the seminal textbook, Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect, a book regarded as the first to detail the link between online presence and corporate success. In it, she states that "businesses tend to...feature their products and services on their websites or social networking sites. This type of old-school, out-dated advertising-marketing mix does not resonate with the social user." This is where Canon and Nikon failed; she continues, "Social media marketing strategies give you the opportunity to 'genuinely connect with people in ways and in places where their attention is focused and impressionable, using a human voice.'" By preventing the three YouTubers listed above from fully using and enjoying the new devices, by restricting the distribution of their images and creative work, and by depending on their own videos and commercials to advertise their objectively-awesome products, the companies lost their chance to take the market by storm.
It is disappointing that camera companies would fail so completely to capitalize on influencers and their audiences in a circumstance like this. This is even more concerning, given that some of the most important advertisements that these brands don't pay for are in the hashtags of social media influencers. An influencer recommending a given camera (like in this interview) to their thousands of followers could potentially make a company millions of dollars, or in this case, cost them. A part of me worries whether this lack of foresight might appear in other circumstances.
Hopefully they will get it right when the next big tech leap comes around.
This blog was originally created for coursework while at the Newhouse School. But this blog quickly became something more, as it gave me a platform, however small, on which to share my thoughts. So feel free to read through these posts, and if you like what you read, please share. Enjoy.