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The Imaging Industry's Femme Fatale



The Imaging Industry's
Femme Fatale

by Janine Kachadourian

Photo courtesy of
Eastman Kodak

As a result of my ambitious New Year's resolution to organize my home (a daunting task), I recently began sorting through the hundreds of photos that are crammed into overflowing boxes throughout my house. I'd hoped to create chronologically correct albums but instead I spent the better part of the day flipping through the photos and reminiscing. What I noticed, besides the fact that I'm not very good at keeping resolutions, is that I'm not in any of the photos. There's my husband, my daughter, my dog, family, friends, animals at the zoo—everyone but you know who. Somehow through the years, I'd officially become the family photographer.

I Am Woman Hear Me...Point & Click
After speaking to my girlfriends about this, they too noticed that they were curiously absent from most of the photos in their homes. This got me to thinking—do those in the photo industry—those "in the know"—realize that today more than ever, it's us women behind the camera? Do they realize that not only are we using the cameras—often, we're the ones buying them? Are they aware of just how profitable a market they have in women—particularly in women with children? You bet they are. All you need to do is open a magazine or turn on the television to realize that much of the advertising put out by the photo industry is skewed toward a female demographic. They've been hearing us say "cheeese," loud and clear, for quite a while now.
Clearly the consumer electronics industry is no longer the male bastion it once was. Research has shown that purchasing decisions regarding technical, electronic products are no longer made primarily by men. There are many reasons for this ranging from financial independence among women to heightened consumer savvy to the evolution of user-friendly, technically advanced products.
Diane Oshin, group publisher of the Parenting Group, which includes such magazines as Healthy Pregnancy, Baby Talk and Parenting, sees today's generation of women—particularly those with children—as a driving force in the photo industry. "Truly, we are really a generation of self- sufficient women. Most of us have supported ourselves independently before getting married and having families so we are accustomed to making a lot of purchasing decisions and doing a lot of thinking on our own about what we want in a product." She added, "today's women have both the professional and financial acumen to make a choice and pay for a product and when you get down to the brass knuckles of it, we're the ones using the products. So, basically what we see is that women—particularly Moms—are the driving force behind the purchases."
Toward that end, the Parenting Group partnered with Minolta, a manufacturer that, according to Oshin, recognized early on the importance of the women's market. "Minolta wanted to create something with some depth and breadth that spoke directly to our market and paid homage to them," she said. Together they created a marketing platform —"Taking the Ordinary and Making It Extraordinary"—and wove it through all of the assets of the Parenting Group. "The campaign was emotional and meaningful to our market," said Oshin. "In very direct, relevant ways it suggested methods to translate the everyday moments of life into extraordinary moments to cherish for a lifetime." Minolta and the Parenting Group are planning to continue their partnership into 2002.

Lady Luck
Minolta isn't the only manufacturer out there with an eye on the women's market. Said Paul De'Andrea, vice president of Marketing, Fujifilm; "Women are clearly the engine that drives photo at retail so we see women as a very important target and as we move into the digital world, they're remaining a very important target."
Through on-line promotions on female-oriented sites, Fujifilm has targeted women with campaigns that promote their products and also serve to educate browsers about digital photography. They also focused their advertising efforts last year on TV and have enjoyed success resulting from their "Do You Speak Fuji?" campaign. Designed specifically to appeal to women, each commercial tells a little life story—typically about a man who's gotten himself into a little hot water—a forgotten anniversary, a forgotten plant withering in the corner. According to De'Andrea the campaign has been successful because women are responding not only to the content, but to the whole little story. "It's very human to them," he said. "We're pleased that it's speaking well to women and we think it's been reflected in our sales."
Fujifilm has also participated in direct-market campaigns with companies like Gerber. "Let's keep in mind that no one takes more pictures than women with young children—that's been reflected in our market," said De'Andrea. As for digital photography, De'Andrea believes that women and men are embracing the technology in equal measure. "In our view, women are not at all afraid of digital. They are very capable and willing to address it. We see them as a key target," he said.
Indeed, as digital cameras become more user—friendly-in terms of both cost and technology—more and more women are making the switch from film. "Early on in the life cycle of digital, it was very much a technology sell intended for the early adopters & tech-savvy consumers," said Jim Malcolm, Marketing Manager, Digital & Still Cameras, Sony. By and large, these "early adopters" tended to be men. Malcolm believes that women are now buying into digital because the process, the control of taking pictures is being transferred into their hands. "Ease of use and clear consistent pictures every time you push the shutter release is what consumers want," said Malcolm. "The fact that prices of digital cameras have come down, while usability and quality have gone up makes the whole digital experience more friendly—and that speaks to both men and women," he said.
"I think that women seem brave enough to try it (digital). I've seen women in their 60's wanting to purchase digital cameras, so I guess the manufacturers are getting it and doing something right regarding educating people about digital," said Richard Lewin, former operator of New York's famed Jay Dee Camera.

Speaking "To" Women
Speaking of speaking to women, Kodak's latest marketing campaign—"Share Moments / Share Life"—does just that. The campaign strives to create a strong emotional link for consumers between pictures and memories. Revolving around the consistent message of better pictures & better sharing as a means for consumers to share life, the ads—complete with meaningful background music-attempt to capture viewers (read: women's) emotions. One needn't consult a sociologist to figure out that Kodak is targeting the female audience with this one—and for good reason. According to Glen Patcha, VICE PRESIDENT, Capture Marketing, Eastman Kodak Co., women are their primary purchasers of film. "Our research shows that women tend to be the ones who buy our film—they make 70% of the purchases—and often they are also the ones shooting the pictures, so we make an effort to target them," said Patcha. He also pointed out that Kodak targets other unique segments as well, such as the youth segment, but that much of their advertising is tested with women.
Patcha added that what Kodak is really focusing on is ways to get more people interested in photography. "Whether we're targeting women, youth or other groups within our consumer base, we want to continue to come out with new, innovative products that make it easier to experience photography in new and exciting ways," he said.

Gender Neutral
Still, some other manufacturers tend to be more gender—neutral when it comes to advertising. Bill Giordano, Nikon's National Marketing Manager, Consumer & Digital Products, acknowledges that while many of Nikon's cameras are bought and used by women, they don't specifically target them in their advertisements. "Why cut your sales ability in half? Our products tend to be gender neutral and the messages we want to give are also gender—neutral. I know a lot of other companies are more heavy—handed at it, but we're not really so gender—specific," Giordano said.

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