Strategy Session: My Lesson of CES—Start Selling Them a Better Memory

Strategy Session: My Lesson of CES—Start Selling Them a Better Memory


After walking the halls of the 2014 International CES for a few days, it hit me that the biggest news coming out of the show was that there really was no big news. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, I think we deserve a collective deep breath. New products and technologies have been hard to keep up with over the last few years; we’ve been deluged with clouds and connections and screens and tablets and apps to the point where we’re starting to lose our focus. We’re forgetting that in our business, there should always be a means to an end. And our end has always been pictures and permanence.

I think we’ve officially lost our way. For the last few years, it hasn’t been about the pictures; it’s been about the process of getting the pictures, and the bells and whistles you can add on. It’s been about how fast you can send them to Facebook, or to your friend’s smartphone. It’s been about how large the files should be, and how quickly you can tag a GPS location onto your image.

It’s been about low quality and speed. It hasn’t necessarily been about the memories.

The overwhelming nature of today’s imaging technology has forced us to take our eyes off the ball. We’ve been so wrapped up in selling technology that we’ve failed to see the bigger picture. In fact, we’ve failed to see the opportunity about printing a bigger picture.

I’ve spoken to many dealers over the last few days, as well as some of my favorite gurus (you know who you are). I also moderated a panel at PMA@CES called “Let’s Start Printing Photos Again.” I’ve listened to the frustrations concerning certain manufacturers (you know who you are as well). I’ve taken it all in, and I’ve come up with one conclusion. We have to get back to the memories.

Our world is now lucky enough to have billions of pictures in it. More images are being taken than ever before. My new conclusion is: If you don’t print it and preserve it, then it’s not really a memory. It’s a flash in time that will soon be forgotten and certainly not passed on to the next generation. Collectively, we are not doing enough to print those images, so they can turn into memories.

Hardware manufacturers have given the imaging world amazing gifts. Digital cameras can now take an almost perfect picture almost every time. (Of course many of your customers are enthusiasts who would argue just what a perfect picture is.) Most of your customers don’t even have to know much about photography.

We have to raise the level of the conversation. Your customers have to be told that their memories are worth more to them than the snap of a smartphone and a whoosh to Facebook. We have to ask our customers whether they want crummy pictures to show up on their new 4K televisions, or amazing images. We have to guilt them (yes, guilt them) into printing their pictures or fear losing them forever. We have to change our stores around to promote memories, not just hardware. And believe me, if they understand the value of better pictures, then they will understand the value of a better camera.

If you’re just selling hardware, then you’re competing with Amazon and big-box retailers and just about anyone else who can sell a camera. If you’re printing just 4×6 or 5×7 photos for your customers, then Shutterfly and Walgreens should be eating your lunch.

If you’re printing projects and photo books and wall art, then most of your competition just went away. And if you’re counseling your customers on how to organize their thousands of photos so they can dip into their own archives and start printing their histories again, then you can very well be alone on an island with that customer.

Think of 2014 as the year you finally decided to get back to the basics. Don’t just try selling them a better camera. Sell them on the notion of a better, long-lasting memory. That’s why they’re in your store, and that’s why they will buy a better camera and turn their pictures into memories again.