The Canon story based on an interview with Jacco Leurs by Maarten Schäfer and Anouk Pappers.
You have to be pretty special to stand out in today’s world. Dictated by the Gaussian curve of normal distribution, the number of people populating the norm is huge. Every now and then, though, someone comes along who does something so well that even nowadays it’s unique. One of these people is Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Born in 1946, Arthus-Bertrand moved to Kenya with his wife to study lions in the Maasai Mara Reserve. While there, he found he was better able to tell stories through images than words. He also discovered the beauty of the world seen from above when he became a hot air balloon pilot and began experimenting with aerial photography. In 1991, he created Altitude, the first photo agency specialized in aerial photography and embarked on a project to create an image bank of the earth seen from above, creating a record of the world’s environment for present and future generations. ‘The Earth from Above’ was published in 1999, has since been translated into 24 languages and is one of the best-selling illustrated books with more than three million copies
sold worldwide. The book is beautiful by any standard and an absolute ‘must-see’. He has now produced 60 books of his work and holds the most prestigious award in France, the Legion D’Honneur, for his photographic work on the environment. He now lives in France.
Now you’ve got to be happy if someone like this uses your products. There can be few better advertisements. And Canon is. Not that they need much help selling cameras, however, with its EOS cameras holding a massive 50% share in the digital single lens reflex (SLR) market. Thing is, while in 2007 estimates indicate that 76% of households had a digital camera, only a minor percentage of those have the SLR version. Canon would obviously like to change this fact, but with such a high market share, it must reposition its EOS from the techy, obscure corner and give it more of a human
character. Prior communications has been highly product-focussed and featuredriven, so that users consisted mainly of professional and advanced amateurs. So how, when you’re doing so well, do you convince consumers to upgrade to a product that used to be seen as too technical for Joe Normal, and create support within the Canon organisation for repositioning EOS from a techy brand into a lifestyle brand, thereby expanding your target group?
We all just wanna have fun
Focus on the client. While photography is Arthus-Bertrand’s job, for most of us the fun element is overriding. Taking pictures means recording one’s life for future reference and having fun while doing so. While consumers these days insist on taking high quality pictures, complexity is not really an option: click and go. Canon therefore decided it would step away from complexity. This shift in perspective was the basis for its ‘Playtime’ campaign, which focuses on the fun & play aspect. Throughout this campaign, Canon has aimed to humanise technology.
It has used all media, including a TV campaign, the first time ever for an SLR camera. This was an interesting choice, as positioning the ads in the highlight as Canon did, it created broad media attention for SLR cameras in general, so that other brands benefit too. Confidence is high enough,
however, that its products outperform the competition so that this was never a real issue.
The campaigns kicked off with the ‘Playtime’ campaign in 2003/04. This was followed up by ‘Welcome to the playground’ for its next camera model. The key message throughout the second campaign was ‘The world is your playground, just go out and play’. This campaign also used all media channels.
By focusing intently on the ‘play’ angle, Canon grafted something of a sole right to the positioning. In Europe, the shift from product-oriented to consumer-oriented started in 2001. Throughout these campaigns, advertisements focus on highlighting the lifestyle aspect instead of product aspects.
The new strategy has clearly born fruit, as sales of its cameras have doubled as each new model was introduced. Moreover, the SLR has penetrated far more market segments and many digital compact users have moved up to the SLR. Above the line, Canon EOS is looking to create unique brand positioning, awareness and interest. Below the line, it is focusing on offering more in-depth information about the product itself. Its pay-off ‘With Canon you can’ shows that Canon has the technology. The point has been to show the consumer that this technology makes it possible for them to do what they want. One of the ways in which this was achieved was through an EOS roadshow, in cooperation with Apple. This roadshow, which visited numerous European cities, aimed to enthuse and inspire consumers and included workshops by photographer Andy Earl.
Change was also needed internally to demonstrate the importance of the repositioning to staff. This was achieved by discussing market research results with the internal organisation. Product and marketing staff are also involved in focus groups, with members from various countries and
divisions. These focus groups discuss the single-minded propositions, which are given subsequently to consumer focus groups for assessment. These groups then create an internal realisation of the importance of the shift from product-focussed to consumer-focussed and thereby from a technology brand to the aimed-for lifestyle brand.
Tags: Jacco Leurs, Canon, EOS, CoolBrands, CoolStorytelling, Digital dreams, CoolBrands the Guru Book