A staff member in the shop I used to work for has just returned from a trip to Japan as the guest of a manufacturer – to observe the launch of several new pieces of photographic equipment. He has reported that it was a delightful junket and that the equipment seemed top-notch.
I’m not surprised, as I use many of the products from this same firm and have not been disappointed in them. The new goods will undoubtedly be good…but the whole event does raise a few questions in the mind of the observer about the business of the camera business – and in particular about the promotional side of the affair.
The company sets out a number of new products each year – different things to appeal to different markets. It has teams of people dedicated to researching what the customers want, what can be sold, and what people have the money for. This last is very important – no good developing the product that no-one can afford. But the timing of the advertising in relation to the availability of the goods is the interesting thing. In some case…some camera makers have been rather naughty. Or perhaps that should read rather foolish – because they have promised what they cannot deliver and do not deliver. And who is to make them accountable…?
I am not pointing fingers at the particular firm in question – they have been pretty reliable in coordinating their goods with their flak. Other makers are not so wise – they have promised something and made the public wait for 6 months. The public is a pretty dumb and fickle animal – 6 months is time enough for them to take an interest and there is a risk that eventually they will take a disinterest. And once they have one of those, the goods will sit on the shelves forever…
The independent trade show is the vehicle that some makers use for flying their kites. Photokina in Köln and The CES in the USA are the big ones…but there are big ones in Japan and I daresay there will be a big one in China as well. I can’t begin to guess who decides which to go for. But they are starting to develop a habit of showing off a long time before they can sell the goods. And the clients are getting wise. It may be one of the reasons that there is a slackening of trade – people have become blasé.
I think that many of the oriental makers would benefit from taking a leaf from the Leica book. The big L made one of these advertising vs delivery blunders a few years back and it hurt their image a little. It probably hurt their pride as well, and they have been careful ever since to have most of their goods ready for sale before the launch date. They might be eye-wateringly expensive but they do exist. It saves the local representative from having to commit the German version of seppuku at the front counter.