Olympus Has a Great New Ad Campaign! But is It Enough?

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?

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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Hohum, sorry but I have to disagree on the first advert above - it felt slow, boring and worst of all, predictable. It's obvious what's going to happen (or you get an idea), which means it's not funny and kind of a bit lame. :/

The second advert (Stuntman) is clever, but, something is missing.

If Olympus's cameras would be as good as their marketing promises, well... Still, the OM-D E-M5 and PENs are not too shabby...

few years i was salesman and we selling photo cameras... sadly but i can say that Olympus compact cameras were weakest.

my first pro digital camera was the olympus E-10 a 4 megapixel sensor with a great 35-105 f2.0 lens. I have always loved their dare to be different thinking (kinda like Apple)
Micro 43rds is a great format, I love my hacked GH1, & I hope the company can somehow survive.

Their OOC Jpegs are excellent.

Good comment but have to disagree on your comment on the E-5. You said E-5 is outclassed by camera that is $1000 less, on what basis? In terms of AF and High ISO yes, E-5 is not brilliant but so does Leica M9, or even a Hasselblad or Leica S2 which has very low ISO. But would professional photographer categorize them as outclassed by machine such as Nikon D3200? Probably not, you see what matter to the professional are the clarity of the picture image at low ISO, especially for portrait professionals. This is the same in terms of Auto focus, non of these expansive professional machines can even catch what E-5 is doing in AF but no one would complaint about it. Why? Because it is expansive and because it has a famous name. 

E-5 is not built on the philosophy of Canon or Nikon, which mainly cares about High ISO and AF points. For me the more AF points you get the less accuracy in getting the exact focusing point you want because computer is unable to think like human and camera can not predict exactly where you want to focus at. What you need is enough focus point not to have 61 points. I don't believe that Olympus is unable to implement 100 points AF system but what's the point. 

And, put the High ISO and AF points aside, can this $1000 less camera you have suggested be used under the extreme weather? Does it has magnesium built quality? Is it as shock proof as E-5? Does it have 150,000 shutter reliance? Can it produce as beautiful JPG as E-5 straight out of machine? Can its low ISO be as good as E-5? Don't forget that E-5 with its HG and SHG lens is even able to match if not beat Nikon D4 in low ISO such as 100 hence, I wouldn't say E-5 is easily outclassed by anything. The only thing E-5 is being outclassed is not being able to follow Canon or Nikon's camera philosophy (such as Sony) which is sadly focus on high ISO and AF points and if photography world is only left with high ISO and AF points dominated by Canon and Nikon's marketing myth that would certainly be quite sad, doesn't it?Yes, we can see Olympus is moving towards Canon-Nikon philosophy more but still they have kept their distinct characters. And I hope their keep its distinctiveness like Apple has done. If Apple has changed it's philosophy be like totally Window like, I don't think they can be as unique as today.