Digital cameras focus on families

There's good news for male technophiles. The women in their lives aren't likely to disapprove of the purchase of at least one tech toy - the digital camera. Okay, so maybe it isn't exactly the latest gadget. In fact, many camera manufacturers have recognized that the digital point-and-shoot devices are on the cusp of mainstream status, and as a result, they are beginning to address young families, and in particular moms, in their marketing strategies.

There’s good news for male technophiles. The women in their lives aren’t likely to disapprove of the purchase of at least one tech toy – the digital camera. Okay, so maybe it isn’t exactly the latest gadget. In fact, many camera manufacturers have recognized that the digital point-and-shoot devices are on the cusp of mainstream status, and as a result, they are beginning to address young families, and in particular moms, in their marketing strategies.

According to the Jackson, Mich.-based Photo Marketing Association [PMA], the photo industry will witness the rise of a new consumer: ‘i-mom,’ a technologically savvy digital camera user who is, as always, interested in maintaining the family photo album.

The organization’s 2002 Camera/Camcorder and Digital Imaging Survey (mailed to 10,000 U.S. homes with a 65% response rate), found that one-fifth of households would likely possess a digital camera by the end of this year. And while men are still more likely to fork over the cash, women are now the primary users of 57% of digital cameras that have been purchased in the last year.

Moreover, when it comes to the regular 35mm device, women point and shoot in 70% of households, and 69% say they would operate digital cameras for similar reasons: to preserve memories or share them with others. In conclusion, the PMA believes that as digital cameras become technologically accessible, the female demo should be treated as a major consumer segment.

Digital cameras definitely represent a blossoming category, according to Boston-based InfoTrends Research Group, which forecasts low-end digital camera unit sales to bulge at a compound annual growth rate of 15% to 18.7 million units by 2007.

‘The use of digital cameras is increasing,’ says Michelle Slaughter, market research analyst with InfoTrends. ‘We do think [manufacturers'] will do more in the design of digital cameras to appeal to women. Some have emphasized the compact size, which can sit in a pocket or purse.’

Casio has certainly taken portability and style into account with its new Exilim Digital Camera, a skinny, silver device that debuted in March and is geared to more of a female demographic, according to director of marketing Gary Schultz, who is based in Dover, N.J. ‘This is a camera women find sexy and trendy,’ he says. ‘As digital cameras hit the maturity stage in product lifestyle, it’s no longer considered a geeky product for early adopters. More women are becoming accustomed to digital imaging.’

This fall, Casio will highlight its product range through a major TV ad campaign that will have more of a ‘lifestyle’ approach. ‘We’re not selling the camera on picture-taking qualities,’ says Schulz, who has yet to determine whether or not the company will run a separate ad effort in Canada. ‘There’s the potential for spillover as well.’

Fuji Photo Film Canada, of Mississauga, Ont., has also noticed a dramatic change in consumer interest, according to Miriam Baltensperger, Fuji’s product manager for digital cameras. ‘The typical film consumer, who has been the mother with the young kids, is now shifting to the digital world,’ she says, adding that the industry sold 434,000 cameras in Canada last year, and expects to part with 700,000 this year.

‘In the past, most marketing has been talking about specs and features – a very technical kind of sale,’ she explains. ‘Now it’s more about the application – what you can do with it, and how it can inspire creativity. This will certainly be the Christmas when the market explodes.’

Fuji has already responded to the development with a summer push that will rerun in fall; it builds on the ‘Open Your Eyes’ effort from now-defunct Toronto shop Ammirati Puris. Created by Toronto’s John St. and targeted at adults 25 to 49 with young kids, ‘Don’t Say Cheese’ indicates how digital cameras offer experimental freedom: in other words, the ability to capture as many images as one wants in less traditional ways. Inspirational comments, such as ‘Try stuff,’ ‘Play with it,’ and ‘Don’t line up tallest to smallest,’ accompany a series of images in the commercial.

According to Fuji, which has planned more than $2.1 million for its media spend, the brand character is ‘open-minded, imaginative, daring, welcoming and fun.’ The spot has run on specialties like Life Network, Space, and Prime, while a print ad popped up in Toronto Life, Today’s Parent and Canadian Geographic, among other magazines.

Like Fuji, Nikon has broadened its ‘Play Around’ initiative, which originally debuted during the hockey playoffs in May, with more recent ‘TV spots that are family focused,’ says Sean Williams, advertising manager at Mississauga, Ont.-based Nikon. ‘We have taken the initiative to expose the Nikon brand and digital to a broad base of consumers. We see the mass market and, within that, the female segment as good opportunities.’

One of the new ads features kids around a campfire, playing with sparklers and exclaiming, ‘I can write my name!’ A second depicts a young woman blowing bubbles, and a third stars a dad getting his ass kicked in a karate joust with his son.

Canon Canada is also tweaking its creative, to be more ‘friendly and approachable,’ says Marc Stoiber, EVP and CD at Grey Worldwide, the company’s AOR. ‘We use a product front and centre, but then instead of having technical callouts to highlight the products, we actually use circles with pictures inside of them, which comes across as friendlier and a little quirkier.’ Stoiber believes these print executions will appeal to ‘normal folk,’ as opposed to just the early adopter.

Furthermore, Canon has begun to advertise in women’s publications, adds Ian Macfarlane, VP and GM of Canon’s photographic products group. ‘Typically, the women are the ones who capture pictures for the family, and people are more comfortable with digital cameras, so we think it’s time.’

Sony agrees, especially since, as GM of advertising and corporate communications John McCarter points out, prices have declined while technology has improved. In fact, Toronto-based Sony has introduced an easy-to-use memory stick, which captures images in the camera, and can later be pulled out and inserted in a computer for e-mail or printing. The memory stick can also be plugged into a new Sony Vega TV, leading to an instant slideshow (no more upside down slides!).

‘As time has gone on, the market is much broader, so basically everybody who is computer literate is a candidate,’ explains McCarter.

Certainly Sony too realizes that moms are strong potential consumers; last year the firm ran an ad, from Toronto agency Due North Communications, that depicted a woman in childbirth.

While Sony hasn’t yet advertised in this fiscal year, McCarter hints that a campaign is on the drawing board for fall, which may spotlight several products under the memory stick umbrella to emphasize the simplicity of the technology.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications is certainly reaching out to consumers in unique ways. A viral marketing effort for its new T68i cellphone, which also functions as a digital camera, saw actors strike up conversations about the device in hopes that passersby at tourist destinations would eavesdrop. This is indicative of how broad the target demo actually is: Not too many tech heads are likely to be influenced by a conversation overheard at the Empire State Building.