The Nikon Marketing Fail

I've been hard on Nikon's marketing and messaging in the past. Today isn't going to be any different. So let's drop down into a couple of examples and see where the problem lies. 

Digital Camera World did an interview with a Nikon Senior Product Manager. Let's take a quick peek, shall we?

It starts with "Shall we start off with an easy question: If you're a Nikon user, why would you want a new Z-system camera?"

Oh my, that is an easy question. 

Apparently the answer is difficult:

  1. You can use your existing lenses. 
  2. It handles like a DSLR.
  3. If you buy a new lens, you'll get amazing quality.

Oh dear. This is a senior product manager, remember. You'd think that they'd have the marketing messages nailed down. But note how his 3rd point is in basic contradiction to his first point. Use your existing lenses! No, wait, buy new ones! And #1 and #2 basically say "don't buy a Nikon DSLR," which I'm pretty sure they want to keep selling.

Next question, which picks up on that last bit:

"If I've got a D850 why should I switch to the Z7?"

And the answer is: Nikon doesn't expect you to. But they expect you upgrade your D800 or D810 to a Z7. And the reason? Peer pressure. 

Hmm. Wouldn't the best general purpose camera available today—again the Nikon D850 in my opinion—be the thing to have if you want the best so that you can brag to your peers? And what does peer pressure have to do with buying a camera in the first place? Why is that the marketing message, and not: this new camera and lens delivers quality beyond what we've provided in the past.

I do like the line he used about a "soft switch." You'll note that I wrote something similar on DSLRs aren't dead. We're in a transition period. You can decide not to transition, you can transition now, or you can wait to transition. Nikon's got you covered in all three cases. Hmm, that seems like a reasonable marketing message. Haven't heard it from Nikon yet, though. 

But let's cut from our examination of that interview and move on to NikonUSA's launch event in New York last week. That's really backfiring on them big time. Why? Because some of those in attendance just simply wrote about the cameras as if they had explored the full potential in an hour using pre-release samples without finished software in what appears to be a pretty non-optimal environment. NikonUSA also didn't appear to set clear expectations ("these are early firmware models") and apparently also didn't have answers to all the questions that came up. 

If you're going to put on that kind of event, you (1) set expectations; (2) construct and deliver usable and repeatable take-away messages (and that aren't hollow, like Mirrorless Reinvented); and (3) make sure that your staff on hand can deal with all the questions that come up. Based upon a comment from someone who did attend that was made to me, I'm going to guess that NikonUSA actually didn't test the event prior to having it. They should have brought some tough examiners/customers in under NDA with a full test of the event a week before, then analyzed what they heard and prepared responses/changes before they had the real event. Why? This is a big marketing campaign for Nikon, not just a simple product launch. What they did in Tokyo, New York, London, and other cities sets the entire tone for the initial launch period. 

So what came out of the event and was amplified over the Internet as "only one slot and no one knows why," "has tracking focus issues," "small buffer," and "not clear why we needed the big new mount." All of those things are fundamental fails of Nikon marketing. As an anonymous attendee indicated on Nikon Rumors, why didn't Nikon just focus on image quality advantages?

In other words, point out that the samples are preproduction, but that you should already see how image quality is remarkably high: better lenses, IS with all lenses including adapted ones, the new Picture Control settings allow much more control over acuity, and so on. Image quality has always been Nikon's strength, yet it seems to be buried or under emphasized in the marketing messages so far. 

I've already pointed out that the teaser site that Nikon had everyone going to for the last month now lies fallow, with just reposts of the videos in that sequence (including the launch video). So Nikon marketing trained everyone to go to a special site, then abandoned it. Back to your regular sites, you Nikoneers!

Too much ineptitude in this launch, I'd say. And I gather that it's already had some impact. After the midnight (US EST) launch, pre-orders were through the roof here in the US. After the NikonUSA followup launch event on Saturday, they're down and there have been a few cancellations. Funny thing is, that actually might help the pre-order situation. I expect the Z cameras to be out of stock day one and not easily available to the general public for several months, at least here in the US. 

Nikon will consider an initial sell-out an indication of the excellence of their marketing messages. I don't. I consider a sell-out as an indication of pent-up demand despite the marketing messages.

I guess I'm going to have to create some better marketing messages for Nikon. However, I won't be doing that until a consumer-release camera is in my hands and I have time to fully test it.

As if to emphasize my article, within an hour of posting it, Nikon marketing managed to make three new mistakes: (1) they sent out an email to those that registered on the teaser site that invited you to dealer presentations of the new cameras, half of which have already occurred; (2) I got an email once again telling me that Nikon wouldn't confirm that they'll do firmware updates for XQD to CFExpress on the DSLR cameras; and Nikon UK managed to turn the over-a-decade-old F6 into a new camera by posting "Coming Soon" on their Web page for it. You can't make these things up. This is an inept marketing organization that can't create and control messages well. 

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