Photographers like pulling for the underdog, and each year photographers are hoping to see Olympus return to the throne they once held, or at least make an appearance in the Court. Back when film was king, the Olympus brand was as strong as Canon, Nikon, and Kodak. But in the digital age and especially in the last year, things haven't been so great. Yet this new advertising campaign could change all that- It's witty, quick, original, and best of all, relatable.
I love ads. I actually study ads and their effects on marketing segments in the United States. And I have to say, despite my previous poor experiences with the Olympus brand and all their products ranging from point and shoot to DSLR, I dig their new 2012 campaign. Sure, the commercial could be cut and paste into any camera brand, but it's Olympus who is doing it, and doing it well.
These ads are funny, quick, memorable, and most importantly, relatable. Over the years, Olympus lost touch with their market. That was more than evident in their flagship DSLR, the E5, which I was hopeful would be a great camera. I shot with the E5 for about six months, and it was dramatically outclassed by a consumer-level Canon, a camera that costs $1000 less than the E5. In building the E5, Olympus showed how behind they were in the market. With this new ad campaign, Olympus is instead moving away from the pro cameras and towards their new target market: consumers. Based on their need to survive, I find it unlikely that they intend to lose touch with their buyers again.
Last year at their Annual Shareholder Meeting on June 29, 2011, Olympus showed an enterprise value of 1,123,899 million JPY and a market capitalization of 649,425 million JPY. Not a leader, but a strong, profitable company with a net income of 12,755 million JPY. This year at their April 30 meeting, those numbers tumbled. A lot. Their enterprise value fell to 708,588 million JPY, with a market capitalization of 361,333 million JPY. Their net income? Negative 34,381 million JPY. That's a nearly 50% falloff in enterprise value and market cap, and catastrophic -269% crash in revenue in less than a year. Granted, a lot of what we were looking at in 2011 could have been falsified, as Olympus execs were discovered to have been hiding millions of dollars in losses from the public. But that's neither here nor there. What matters is the present, and Olympus has announced that they are going to cut 2700 jobs and shed 12 global factories over the next 5 years. Olympus is also trying to get a takeover defense measure passed at the end of this month, which points to their concern over shareholder discontent.
Olympus' "Capture Your Story" trademark phrase isn't the strongest part of their new campaign, but it works to some degree.
But it is when companies have their backs to the wall, with nowhere to go, with only the option to fail or turn it all around, that they can claw their way out and once again see success. It's a rare occasion in this day and age, but not impossible. None of us really expect RIM (makers of Blackberry) to recover. It will be surprising to see HP pull itself out of the hole it has dug. But it's possible and with good marketing tactics and a solid product, it can be done.
So we know, by looking at these commercials, that Olympus is heavily targeting the consumer market. They are done with their pro DSLR line for now (as well they should be unless they can make a serious upgrade over the E5), and instead are focusing on quick money: young, trendy, hip members of either gender between the ages of 25 and 35. Now you are probably thinking, "How can ads make up for bad reputation?" Well that's actually what ads are designed to do. The right strategy can turn you around and raise you to the top. These ads are not aimed at us, my fellow photogs. They are aimed at those who have no opinion of the brand, at those who are just shopping around for a camera to throw in their bag or purse. The strategy behind ads like this is to build a brand new following unrelated to those who already either love or hate the product line. So though these ads may not make you buy their cameras, they will have a different effect on the purely consumer market.
I have actually heard good things about the Pen series (in case you don't know, the Pen series is their microfourthirds camera line). I've played around with a few, and they feel good. They shoot well, and they perform as advertised. On the other hand, I have heard absolutely nothing about the point-and-shoot TG series, at least not until these commercials informed me they existed.
So let's assume these products are good. If these products perform well against their competitors, can the brand recover? Will these ads be enough? Olympus sure hopes so. I'll be watching them over the next year, and you can be certain I'll look at their financials come December.
What do you all think? Is Olympus on your radar? Are you considering picking up a new Pen? What about their TG series?