The Center of Everything Is the Picture
The State of the Industry-A Dealer's Perspective
by Jerry Harmen
major manufacturer in our industry used to preach to its
dealers: "Be able to answer 'Who am I?'; 'Where am I'; Where am I
going?'" In a slightly different vein, Walt Kelly once remarked,
"We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Our industry is poised in between these two points dynamically changing, but towards what?
The photographic industry was the golden egg-profitable, exciting, recession proof, universally popular and appealing. Now it sits with its riches and niches. It seems like an industry with Alzheimer's.
Manufacturers often make something because they can, not because there is need to. We have all seen photo products hit the market with features that aren't in the manuals or ads-the manufacturers were unaware of what their engineers had created. Companies made products no one wanted for the sake of being able to design and build them.
Recently Olympus made a digital camera that took Polaroid film. People avoided the product in droves. As I understand it, most have still not been sold at retail. I don't know how many rounds of golf went into the development of this fiasco, but it sure didn't create enthusiasm or profit for anyone.
People buy posters and hang them in their homes. People buy art reproductions and proudly decorate their homes with them. Millions, however, still pack museums to see the originals. People see reprints of photos, pictures in magazines and books, but still look around any time someone is heard to say they have a photo.
When pictures come out of the envelope at the dinner table, eating is disrupted while the photos make the rounds. The reason for this is easy to figure: People like to see that slice of time and space. People like to look at pictures, even if they aren't very good.
The foundation of our industry is looking at pictures. The foundation of our business is NOT extolling hardware features, statistics, or anything else. The foundation of our business is looking at pictures.
When a customer wants to buy a piece of furniture, you never see or hear ads for the tools that made the furniture. You know nothing about the materials used. The ad describes and talks about the furniture, the home, the lifestyle. People don't care about the production-just the end product.
The foundation of our industry is looking at pictures. The picture begat the hardware, not the other way around. We know what came first, unlike the chicken or the egg. People pay to look at pictures!
Some of you may have noticed that I link some importance to the actual picture. I didn't mention chemical or digital, because it is irrelevant to the viewer. I didn't mention size, color or anything else. It's the picture. The foundation of our industry is looking at pictures.
This document is being edited on September 11th, 2002-a day we can all picture in our minds. Who has not seen photos of this day in 2001 and the days following? The viewer never considers what cameras or films or memory cards are used. The event made people want to have pictures, buy pictures, take and make pictures.
The center of everything is the picture. When the desire to have pictures is strong, picture making supplies are wanted and purchased. Everything cycles around the picture.
Very few suppliers today operate and market from a position of strength. They are confident of their long-term business plan and rebuff the financial community's attempt to run their businesses for them. These suppliers build on the relationships they have made, while creating new partnerships with other channels of distribution.
Some manufacturers through fear and shortsightedness try to be all things to all people. They burn their bridges behind them as they woo new channels of distribution including direct selling to the end user. Imagine buying new homes or a restaurant meal over the Internet. The builder and restaurateur still make their profit, but no one else in between.