It’s no secret that retailers often feel manufacturers don’t spend enough time and money promoting the industry. But in the weeks leading up to the 2008 holiday season, there was plenty of advertising plugging both product and services.
Nikon hired actor Ashton Kutcher to extol the virtues of its Coolpix line, while Kodak rolled out a half-hour infomercial about its ESP printers. HP tapped singer Fergie and Samsung used a little Hollywood magic for their camera phones.
Drugstore chain Walgreen’s took a different approach, reminding consumers that it was time to get their pictures out of their cameras, off their computers and into and onto books, mugs, mouse pads, and 4×6” prints. This clever bit of marketing not only prompted consumers to print, it reminded them they needed to move and/or store their images or risk losing them altogether. What’s the thinking behind the industry’s latest promo/commercials? And is it working?
For decades, celebrities have been tapped to sell everything from makeup to dog food, while Canon has counted on tennis stars such as Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova to pitch its cameras. Does celebrity sell product faster or better than ordinary spokespeople? That depends. According to Mitch McCasland, Director of Insight and Brand Strategy for ad agency Moroch, whose clients include Midas and the Travel Channel, the appearance of celebrities in advertising is what is called “neumonic” devices or memory aids, which help people recall some type of association between the celebrity and the product.
“One thing it does for a commercial is help it break through the clutter,” explains McCasland. “Another challenge is establishing a point of difference with consumers. When people see a celebrity or a sports star they recognize, it helps them perhaps engage a little more in the ad.”
McCasland also believes there’s a natural tendency among CE/Imaging manufacturers to want to talk about technology. However, even consumers that don’t know exactly what Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is, he notes, understand the end benefit. “I think it’s a challenge for Imaging manufacturers, particularly in television commercials, to tell a succinct story that is relevant to people, that engages people, and speaks to the lifestyle-based benefits of the particular call-out feature of any given product.
“The Nikon ads largely rely on celebrity to do the heavy lifting—the breaking through—as does Canon’s PowerShot ads, rather than the technology story.”
The reason for that, notes McCasland, is manufacturers may fear they’re not able to clearly articulate the technology in a 30-second time slot. Does celebrity sell? “It can, if it’s part of a long term strategy and it bears a particular relevance between the celebrity and the technology. If used haphazardly and indiscriminately, it might get people’s attention for a second but they don’t really make the link between the celebrity and the brand. It has to be part of a bigger strategy,” says McCasland.
For example, Ashton Kutcher in Nikon’s ads might help consumers make the link between the brand name and the celebrity if Kutcher’s television show featured advertising or product placement by Nikon. “Or, if he’s on the red carpet and the backdrop features the Nikon logo. It’s really a two-way reinforcement of the association of the celebrity and the brand name,” reiterates McCasland.
As for Kodak’s ESP printers, McCasland says the company is positioning itself as being much more affordable than other brands. “(Kodak) felt the pricing of ink for home printers was intimidating to consumers. Obviously, Home Improvement’s Richard Karn (who hosted its infomercial) is someone they felt, from audience readings, conveyed a sense of trust and wholesomeness. If they’re trying to talk to families they certainly don’t want someone that’s remotely controversial.”
Canon has been consistent over the years in utilizing the services of a handful of tennis stars to pitch product. According to Michelle Fernandez, Canon Marketing, the personal and professional attributes of the tennis players coincide with the attributes of the products.
“We took a look at our products and tried to mirror what those attributes are. As an example, the Elf lineup, like Maria, on the outside is beautiful and graceful, yet on the inside there is substance—the integrity of the camera—the image processor, the optics, the stabilization, etc. It’s a combination of substance and style that these tennis players bring to the table,” reiterates Fernandez. “And that’s the message Canon wants to communicate to the consumer.”
That consumer is typically 18 to 49 years old and is comprised of Gen-Y’s, Gen-X’s, Gen-X moms and pretty much anyone that’s looking for a point-and-shoot, such as the PowerShot. “It’s a vast consumer segment and so how we talk to them and market and advertise the brand can sometimes vary from segment to segment within that age group.
Though Maria is a worldwide spokesperson, we feel she mostly aligns with the PowerShot brand,” Fernandez added. “Today, and when we started with Maria in 2004, consumers were still quite apprehensive about digital photography to a degree. People were still getting acclimated to the idea of taking a picture, uploading it, etc. I think having a spokesperson like Maria that is able to highlight that it’s not difficult and it is easy to use is important.”
To view some of HP’s most recent ads for its wireless printers visit www.youtube.com, then type in HPwirelessprinting. According to Ron Coughlin, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, Imaging and Printing Group, HP, “It’s a good example of what we’re trying to do, which is to take relevant product news and communicate it powerfully to the marketplace in a way that’s arresting but also drives the value proposition and uniqueness of the product.
"The reality is,” he continues, “we’re seeing a massive transition from desktop computers to notebooks, which are no longer tethered to the desk. It’s not convenient to go back to your desk and plug the printer in, which is why a wireless printer is the Yang to the notebook’s Ying.”
Coughlin believes ad campaigns today, given the stratification of media, need to be multi-platform, which is why HP has taken its wireless message to retail, TV, print, and online in an aggressive manner. “In fact,” he explains, “we’re working with a brand new advertising outlet called Current Media, which is a TV station and upline property. We partnered with them and gave their viewers an assignment to create an ad for us (three were used). That’s an example of being multi-platform and combining traditional media like TV with non-traditional TV like online.”
HP’s target market includes consumers, small businesses, enterprise customers, and print and service providers. “For our consumer business, we tend to focus on moms and youth.” HP also believes it’s doing a good job of reaching consumers via conventional marketing of traditional equipment and services to print photos, whether it’s via its printers or properties like Snapfish, which it owns.
“I think the industry has a long way to go when it comes to enabling the printing of photos beyond the traditional, now that consumers are online. We’ve had the largest explosion of photography happen with cell phones and yet the majority of those photos aren’t coming off those phones.”
Back in October 2008, HP announced plans to integrate HP printing technology across multiple areas on the social network, MySpace, including all photo sections. According to HP, this partnership is intended to enhance the MySpace experience and enable millions of consumers to print the photo sections, personal profiles, blog entries, comments and messages stored on their MySpace profiles and share them offline in new ways.MySpace currently has about 4 billion images on its platform from more than 120 million users.
“It’s one thing to launch advertising with a leap of faith, but what you hope is, one, you have a way of validating that it’s going to work in the marketplace, and two, that it does work in the marketplace. I think wireless is a great example where we’ve been validated in the marketplace,” concludes Coughlin.
“We do upfront, quantitative research on our ads, and the numbers are extremely strong. We did some pre-testing and showed people our wireless ads, and 73% of the participants said it made them want to buy a wireless printer; 43% said it was going to accelerate their purchase, which in these economic times is critical. The results showed through—wireless printer growth in the U.S. is more than 60%, and in Europe, more than 90%. I think it’s a good example of getting focused on the right target and the right message and then having that payoff in the marketplace.”
If consumers “get” the intended message, the payoff can be huge.