GXR Branding Limbo

Ricoh appears closer to figuring out how to proceed with their Pentax acquisition: in the future, it looks like all compact cameras will be Ricoh branded, all mirrorless and DSLR cameras will be Pentax branded. This according to reports in Digital Asahi Shim bun. 


The Ricoh GXR, of course, is not quite either of those things, having attributes of a modular compact camera or an oddly designed mirrorless camera, take your pick.

There's a secondary possibility in the statement if I'm reading the original Japanese correctly: that Pentax becomes more of the high-performance brand while Ricoh will be used for a broader, consumer type branding. That still doesn't resolve the GXR, though, as it can be both things depending upon which module you buy.

The problem is still the same as it ever has been for Pentax. I wrote over 10 years ago that (the then independent) Pentax was in trouble. Since then, it was first acquired by Hoya, more recently by Ricoh. All this management and structural change has taken a toll on Pentax' ability to iterate. To their credit, they've managed to continue produce good DSLRs though all the turmoil, though not quite at the pace of the other three players. The real problem has been that they've lost dealers and distribution, lost marketing visibility, lost market share, and through all of that have lost any cost advantages they had. Thus, to find growth they need to change something dramatically. I still think that Pentax is the most likely brand to go all direct sales in the US; that would be a relatively dramatic change, though one fraught with peril and need for strong marketing. Or it could be a really strong product that's highly differentiated in design, performance, or features from the Canikony (Canon, Nikon, Sony) ones. I doubt that the dramatic change they can make would be pricing. 

Still, I wonder where I should put the GXR here on sansmirror. I'll probably create a Ricoh/Pentax header in the Camera Database section until it becomes more clear.

Update: dpreview reported on July 16th that they were told "[Pentax as the DSLR-brand, Ricoh as the compact brand] is one option that was discussed but the final decision has not been made." Okay. Where does that put us? It puts us into the realm where Ricoh/Pentax is moving too slowly, that's where. An acquisition like this has prices beyond what was paid in cash. The longer you don't have clear decision making and a clear face to the public, the more you risk letting your products slip against competitors. This isn't a tough decision (though it may be more difficult to manage the egos of the employees involved): you either pick a one-brand approach for cameras, or you pick a high-low brand approach. But until you do that, you can't perform effective marketing. In fact, you could waste dollars advertising a brand that changes or goes away. Ricoh is already late at helping the public make sense of what is going to happen with their cameras. Photokina is only two months away, and it would be a huge mistake not to have a clear, definitive approach in public view at Photokina.  

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