Not Loving It

Last year's Show Your Love Some Love and this year's Love Letters From the N Line campaigns from Nikon have now had enough time and images behind them to warrant comment. 

Go ahead and browse the two links above and look at some of the images.

Many of the images are extremely good, though some are more pedestrian (yet decently done). It's clear that NikonUSA has been picking and choosing among the many images they've received to keep the visual interest diversified and high on their sites. 

But...

What's this campaign have to do with Nikon?

I mean, are these images even taken with Nikon cameras? How is Nikon gear somehow enabling these images in ways that, say, Canon gear doesn't? 

Of course, there's no good answer for that. Competent shooters can produce good looking images with virtually any gear these days, so making the "this is because of Nikon" connection would be really tough to do. Possible, I believe, but very tough. 

Instead, what the whole "love" thing appears to be is no more than an attempt to proliferate #Nikon hash tags of some sort (e.g. the current #NikonLoveNY suggestion). In other words, it's an attempt at tying into social networking. I'd argue that Nikon really needs to promote a #TakenWithNikon tag more than the #NikonLove ones. They need to better close the gap between the tag and what they want you to do (buy a Nikon). 

If I type #Nikon into the Twitter search engine, I see more images with the plain #Nikon tag than  any of the #NikonLove tags. Some of that is because the Love campaign is US based, of course, and Nikon's are used worldwide. But still, it seems to me that this social networking campaign is just a subset of Nikon's social visibility and still needs more connection to something. 

Moreover, I'd argue a social networking campaign you probably want to go viral needs more pay-off to those participating in it than having Nikon possibly using your image for free on their Web sites. As in "Produced a great image with your Nikon camera? Post it to your social networking site with the tag #TakenWithNikon for a shot at receiving unique rewards from Nikon." Unique rewards don't have to be cameras (though that would be cool). Off the top of my head, even something as simple as "I was taken with Nikon, they were taken with me" T-shirts with the image emblazoned on it or some such. 

Marketing via social networking is tricky and doesn't always have direct payoff. It seems to me that Nikon's approach is simply brand awareness run a bit astray. It's also sad that I don't really see any linkage to Nikon's own attempts at being Internet relevant (e.g. SnapBridge and Nikon Image Space). 

If Nikon weren't struggling to keep its loyal customers loyal customers, the Love campaigns wouldn't seem like a waste of marketing dollars (though I'd still argue that the connection between the image and Nikon gear needs to be made). Unfortunately, what I keep hearing from people is that they don't understand why NikonUSA is spending money on these types of campaigns. Whatever the customers' complaint is today—faster repairs, better customer service, answers to specific questions, a more organized knowledgebase—they see the Love campaigns as wastes of money that could be spent addressing their needs.

Again, it's not whether they are or are not a waste of money. I'm sure that Cramer-Krasselt, the ad agency behind the Love campaigns, is producing some measure of what worth the campaigns are producing to NikonUSA.

But again it's all about customer perception. Nikon users don't care if some agency exec has a spreadsheet that shows how "engaged" people are now with Nikon after the Love campaigns went active. What I keep hearing is that people think Nikon is spending too many dollars in the wrong places, while cutting costs in things that impact the user base. I believe that's the current loyal Nikon enthusiast perception, and these ad campaigns aren't being received as changing that. 

Finally, a simple question: measure the week before and after the posters and images went up in the NYC subway. Did B&H's Nikon sales go up in the week after? 

It isn't just a US problem. As one reader wrote to me from Europe: "Every few weeks I see promotions on Amazon Germany for Canon or Sony cameras, never saw one from Nikon (and I'm a daily visitor to their site). On the websites and newsletters of the biggest photo dealers in Austria I regularly see not only special rebates but also road shows from Canon, Sony and Fujifilm (e.g. for GFX they tour the whole country). Has been a long time I saw something meaningful from Nikon except Cashbacks two times a year."  Right. Don't market much = don't sell much. Plenty of bankers on Nikon's board of directors; are there any photographers on the board? Probably not, because everything at Nikon appears to be a "cost" problem, and no one seems to think that losing photographers' interest in any way influences their results. 

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