Sometimes strategic partnerships make sense outwardly. But sometimes synergies need to be nurtured, and collaboration produces results that might not have been imagined. Adam Mirabella is the executive vice president of Global Partnerships for Manfrotto. An imaging industry executive for the past few years, Mirabella has a background in technology, digital entertainment and digital marketing. He is now applying some of the thinking that resulted in successful partnerships during the transition from physical entertainment products to digital entertainment—and the insights that were necessary to make that happen.
JG: So first of all, how is Manfrotto’s business?
AM: We had a very a good year. We grew tripods and we grew bags in a market that declined significantly. We have a relatively new team, and they’ve worked really hard.
Where are you seeing growth?
We grew in photo supports, video supports, lighting and bags. It was across all categories—not just one category. Our bag division did especially well in a down market. We’re very excited about our prospects.
Tell me about your new role at Manfrotto.
My new role is EVP of Global Partnerships. This role is making sure the Vitec Group of brands are involved and engaged in the future of where imaging is heading. If you look at some of the things I’ve brought to Manfrotto—developing relationships with Apple, signing 360º accessory companies to distribution deals and working on new channels for our products—I feel very comfortable stretching the organization to take on new challenges through developing unconventional partnerships. Essentially, that is what my new position is all about.
What’s going on with Apple and Manfrotto?
I put together a global deal for the organization. We’re now in every Apple Store. But it’s not just about retail sales. We’re collaborating with Apple on developing new products for smartphone photographers that will give them a better imaging experience. That’s just one example of the kind of partnerships that are important to our organization as we move forward with imaging.
For example, the natural next places to go would be Facebook, Google, Instagram and Snapchat. These organizations are right in the middle of imaging, whether it’s broadcast based or image and video creation with independent content creators. Imaging is such an integral part of so many businesses now; the potential is endless.
You mentioned Instagram. They don’t really sell products. What would a partnership like that look like, a hard product with an imaging app?
When I think of platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, they are built on people sharing images. But the people who run those platforms know that many of the images and videos being presented are of very low image quality. So the experience that their users are receiving could be improved.
Our purpose statement at Vitec is “to provide vital products and services that support the capture and sharing of exceptional images.” So when it comes to Instagram and Facebook, where millions of images and video clips are shared every day, we ask how we can support and help their users get better images, which would provide a better experience on those platforms.
A great example is Facebook Live. There are very experienced, large content creators on that platform who are creating content using mobile photo or field photography, which is a lot different than studio photography. And bloggers who are doing things from cars or while hiking in the mountains. Their situations are often unpredictable.
Our partnership is based partially on providing the tools and accessories to the independent content creators who might be using a smartphone in the field, so they can provide higher quality images to that platform.
How do you reach and educate these people?
Right now our conversations are about helping the partners of those platforms. They all have structures and organizations that collaborate with content creators. We work with those people and help them understand what we can bring to the party that would make a difference in the final image that is uploaded.
Training is another thing we’re working on—training both the people from the platform as well as their partners—to help them create higher quality content with accessories that make sense.
Give me an example of how your partnerships resulted in better images.
Going back to Apple, we created TwistGrip as a result of having a deep conversation with Apple about what’s important to their users. Most of the existing clamps were made of plastic and were in the “C” formation. Their guidance was they wanted something that was pocket friendly, would have some weight to make it feel premium, and would look sexy.
This accessory is for people who are buying iPhones in an Apple Store but have an expectation of capturing superior images on it. The TwistGrip delivers on that expectation and is pocket friendly, uses premium materials and is cool and sexy.
Your partnerships aren’t all based on mobile phone imaging.
Part of my new role is to forge deeper relationships with partners we work with such as Nikon, Canon, Sony and the like. The truth is someone has to spend time to define what the possibilities and long-term strategies are with these important affiliations.
Are you looking at 360º photography companies as well?
It’s so important that we figure out what the right way is to move forward with that side of the business. We have to learn together and define what 360º photography is going to mean, and how large that market is going be.
Manfrotto recently signed a distribution agreement with 360Rize Inc. It is a premier hardware company that creates rigs to take 360º images, whether it’s on land or under water. It’s an amazing company that has been around since 2012. Their rigs are simple to use and of superior quality. They help make it easy for an image taker to move into 360º images and video. As an accessories company, we’re building partnerships like this because we see the potential in 360º imagery.
Perspective on the Industry
How do you feel about the state of the industry?
There is a lot of promise in this business! We’re experiencing interesting times, but we must define the future. As a proud member of the Imaging Alliance, we understand the importance of continuing to grow the established part of the imaging business. At the same time, it is so important that we lead ourselves into where the future of this business is heading.
My experience in music entertainment taught me a lot of lessons about collaboration. When physical CDs moved to a digital format, there was no one company that could do it alone. It took a series of partners moving in the same direction and pulling the industry into the new realm. Companies we see today, like Spotify, offer experiences that were worked on by cross-industry partners as early as 1999. But Spotify didn’t hit until 2008, so it took a lot of years. As you can imagine, there was a lot of work being done in the background.
That’s why these strategic partnerships are so important. They offer us the chance to work together to create the future of imaging! manfrotto.us