Magazine Article


Taking a Note From the Music Industry

Mitch Goldstone

Clive Davis, the famed music mogul who recently shared intensive penetrating advice for music retailers, cautioned his industry that they are "faced with a major threat-competition from digital distribution." This threat is forcing companies to reinvigorate their marketing campaigns.

As chief executive of Bertelsmann's BMG North America, this Harvard Law School-trained entrepreneur inadvertently shared advice that parallels the imaging industry as well. It's identical. Record stores are disappearing at the same woeful tempo, as are many photo specialty retailers. Changing consumer preferences are devastating the traditional stores and their tight operating margins. Davis, who transformed the music industry with talent like Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Whitney Houston, The Grateful Dead and, most recently, Alicia Keys and Busta Rhymes, knows what he's talking about.

Record retailers are combating declining market shares and fighting back with new technologies that may sound very similar. They are installing computer kiosks to merchandise custom-designed CDs. New hybrid CD-DVD formats and CD burning at retail are other growth opportunities in the record business. A major difference is that the "record" business never changed its name or marketing position. Think of the illustrious Capitol Records landmark building in Los Angeles. It's still called Capitol Records. In our industry, we were more flexible and expeditiously changed our companies' identification from photo to digital.

Amusement and fun are the key selling propositions that Davis urged the record industry to engage in. "It's fun to shop for music-and you're not making it a fun experience," he jabbed. Like record retailers, we, too, need to make the retail experience exciting. The presentation of your retail and online business must be sparkling and inviting. Keeping up with the fast-paced technology changes is secondary to getting people into your retail space. If you don't have customers, they will never know how advanced your services are.

During last summer's Olympics in Athens, I attended and toured many of the venues and noticed the most telling sign that our industry has completed its transformation: I didn't see any film cameras. None. In the past, the press photographers would shoot film and have runners bring the negatives to the Kodak photo center. Today they use their onsite computers and Wi-Fi access to beam the images directly to their news organizations' websites. With digital cameras so prevalent, others had camera phones, but every spectator had something in common-they all had some type of device to capture images.

Just as Clive Davis advised, we, too, need to make the experience fun and exciting.

In my unscientific poll, I asked how many pictures they shot and what they would do to preserve those special memories. The results: Fans of the Summer Games shot nearly 12 times as many pictures as they did from traditional film cameras. Twelve times! That's hundreds of additional opportunities to turn electronic images into photographic prints. Even the Kodak Imaging Center was bristling with orders for prints from digital cameras on their banks of Kodak Picture Makers. It was like watching an out-of-control ATM machine spitting out money, expect these were APMs-automatic photo machines, dispensing priceless memories.

Another observation was how many guests went to the Kodak pavilion and ordered CDs to archive their images so they could reuse their memory cards. The really good news is that my poll indicated that upon returning home, those picture-takers planned to make prints of all their images. Because of the volume, they preferred online and at-retail ordering, rather than at-home printing. Even with my photos, I e-mailed just a few, but the balance of the memories were printed and saved in albums. At parties and gatherings I show the album, which still is the easiest way to share photos.

Just as Clive Davis advised, we, too, need to make the experience fun and exciting. Think of ways to create a fun, exciting and smooth way to enhance sales. This holiday season, make sure to transform your store and online ordering into an opportunity that creates a buzz for your business. Customers should leave with a smile and become your cheerleaders. One way is to fully stock your stores with all the holiday accessories and supplies that they're seeking. If you only offer photographic processing, broaden your services to include a full line of modern, styling greeting card templates. If you sell cameras, stock up on memory cards and auxiliary items that they want. Picture frames, film and one-time-use cameras should be merchandised and clearly identifiable.

E-tailing is all about telling a story and differentiating your services. When your staff is fully trained and your store is fully stocked with merchandise and welcoming smiles, you can't help but also create a symphony of joyful music as your register rings up delightful tunes.

Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of 30 Minute Photos Etc., also co-owns Goldstone is a city commissioner in Irvine, CA, and champions his dedication to promote the imaging industry. E-mail him at