Spotlight on Jerry Grossman
Spotlight On Jerry Grossman
Vice President, Marketing, Consumer Digital Products & Compact Cameras, Nikon Inc.
by Dan Havlik
This industry mover & shaker recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions from PTN on the scope of his new position with Nikon, the state of the imaging industry in general, and what he foresees coming down the pike.
Describe your responsibilities and duties as Nikon's Vice President of Marketing for Consumer Digital Products and Compact Cameras. I'm responsible for the marketing of our Coolpix compact digital camera line, Coolscan scanners and our 35mm Compact One-touch and Lite-touch lines. How does your previous role as director of Internet Development for Nikon relate to your current position? The Internet and digital photography go hand in hand. Our objectives in building sites such as NikonNet have been to provide Coolpix camera owners with a complete solution, whether its storing albums, sending e-cards, or editing their images on-line. The Internet not only broadens the universe for digital camera owners, it also makes it fun. In addition, digital camera purchasers are dependent on the Web for information. That's why we recently built nikoncoolpix.com, a site dedicated to our digital line. How vital is the Internet to the future of digital photography? Suffice it to say, one medium would have a hard time existing without the other. Digital photography introduced a whole new meaning to the term photo sharing. It became an instant medium. At the same time, what would the Internet be without images? Dare I say CompuServe in the mid 1980s? That's not to say that someone who owns a digital camera must be an Internet user. We provide software tools with Coolpix cameras to allow people to manipulate their images on their desktop, and print on their home printer. But in a recent consumer survey we conducted, the number one activity digital camera owners do with their images is email them. And sharing albums on the Web is becoming more mainstream. Most importantly, the Internet makes digital photography fun. That will drive the success of each most of all. In your new role, you will continue to oversee Nikon's Internet Development team. What's next for Nikon on the Web after NikonUSA, NikonNet, NikonMall and the new NikonPro? I will continue to oversee the team, but I'm fortunate to have a very strong team in place, with Ed Fasano as General Manager of E-commerce marketing, and Tracy Mack-Jackson as our Manager of Internet Programs. They were both there from the beginning, and will continue to drive our future projects. In terms of future development, after launching five new sites in the last two years (including NikonDealerNet), we feel as though our foundation is in place, so our main focus for this year will be to enhance our current Internet sites with better features and functions...more information on products and services, more photo-enhancement tools on NikonNet, things of that nature. Can you briefly describe some of Nikon's latest marketing strategies for Coolpix digital cameras and Coolscan scanners? We're going to continue to be aggressive in our marketing of Coolpix cameras. Fortunately, our holiday sales were very strong, but we're not resting on our laurels. Without tipping our hands, our plan is to continue to use Nikon's equities to secure our market leadership in the high-end compact arena, 4 and 5 megapixel products. As an example, we're seeing a tremendous response to our Coolpix 5000 from serious photo enthusiasts. On the lower end, our strategy is to continue to convince anyone who has a film camera the time is right to jump into digital...cameras are priced right, they're easy to use, they're compact, the quality of the images are improving, and most importantly, they're fun.
Our scanner line continues to dominate the market. You'll probably see more marketing toward SLR owners to show them how scanners can turn their film archives into digital images. If you think about it, a film SLR, like a Nikon N80, can become a digital camera when you throw a Nikon Scanner into the mix. And for Nikon's One-Touch and Lite-Touch compact film cameras? You would think that all of the hype on digital would have a disastrous affect on 35mm compacts, but we've seen quite the opposite. Our compact line is lean and mean...great price points and great quality. We're showing tremendous strength in mass market outlets, and have seen some pockets of success in photo specialty stores. Our plan is to continue to introduce new products that people expect from Nikon. For example, we now put ED glass on many of our compact cameras-a better lens makes a better image...that's what consumers expect from Nikon. What sets Nikon's products apart from the products of your competitors? Our most significant point of difference is that we focus on the image. We don't see digital cameras as computer peripherals like some of our competitors do. First and foremost, we see them as cameras, so our product development is focused on using our equities and knowledge of photography to build better cameras. Along with that goes our knowledge of ergonomic design...putting controls in the right place, knowing what features are important. Finally, Nikkor lenses set us apart from everyone. Their quality is legendary in the photo marketplace, and quite frankly they are a huge selling point for us. How do you get someone who's never owned a digital camera to want to purchase a digital camera? First, you have to show them that they're easy to use. There is still a huge intimidation factor that exists. That's why we've built features like scene modes into our cameras, to make it easy to take a great picture. Second, we can't take for granted what we think people know. As digital cameras become more mass, something like sending an email, which many of us take for granted, is scary for the first time digital camera user. Yet, if you show them how easy it is, they'll be a convert. Finally, show them how much fun it is. Photography as a hobby is seeing a resurgence, because digital has breathed new life into it. Is there a certain amount of fear in people who haven't owned or used a digital camera? If so, how do you overcome that fear? It's a fear of the unknown. People were afraid of computers, and of email, before they saw how easy it was to use. Now they're ubiquitous in our lives. We have to show people how easy digital cameras are to use, and what the benefits are. The more we complicate it with "techie" terms and software overload, the longer it will take to win them over. How will digital photo management applications for home computers, such as Apple's new iPhoto, effect digital photography? I think tools like iPhoto can only help. Apple is focused on making applications that are intuitive...and simple. Plug the camera in, and everything after that is simple. Apple is a strong partner of ours, as are Microsoft and Arcsoft. We'll continue to endeavor to make the interaction between the camera and the computer seamless. As digital imaging products continue to improve, become easier to use, and grab a greater share of the consumer market place, do you foresee a future where traditional cameras and film become obsolete? Why or why not? I don't believe film cameras will ever become obsolete. First of all, they've been around forever, and the habits of consumers are slow to change. It's easy to have a roll of film developed, and the results are usually fantastic. Many people have invested time and money into their SLR systems, and are "addicted" to the results. I think the industry has seen that digital has reinvigorated photography as a hobby, and at Nikon, all of our businesses are benefiting. We've seen that there is sufficient room for both platforms. What's the future of APS? I think the idea behind APS...making it easier than ever before to load film and shoot, was solid. Unfortunately, it came on the heels of the greatest revolution in consumer photography-digital, which stole the hearts and minds of the consumers and the press. I think the future for APS is bleak, which is unfortunate. What advice would you give photo retailers struggling through tough economic times? To hang in there, and to invest in the digital infrastructure of their business. The future is digital...and much of their future will be dependent on their ability and willingness to print digital pictures for their customers. While on-line printing options exist, I believe customers would much rather take their CompactFlash card to their dealer, and have their pictures printed. It's a challenge in tough times to invest in your future, but those that make that choice will be quicker to benefit. Can you give us a sneak preview of digital products and compact cameras Nikon will be unveiling in the next year? That would take all the fun out of it, wouldn't it? It's safe to say that Nikon will be very aggressive, both on the low end (2MP) and the high end. We are forecasting strong growth in both areas. With mega pixel counts getting higher and higher while prices become more affordable, what will the consumer digital camera landscape look like in five years? There will certainly be a shakeout in the industry. We believe a few strong brands will survive, Nikon among them, who are dedicated to delivering better images. Digital will grab a significant share of the photography market, and consumers will have assimilated digital into their photography lives. As it becomes easier and easier for consumers to get their digital images printed, dealers' businesses will grow to new heights. The future is rosy...and it's definitely digital!