Branding and Nikon’s Shrinking Value

(commentary)

Each year Interbrand issues reports on “brand value” and pronounces winners and losers. They release some of the details to the public, but the full reports with all the damning details are only for sale to businesses. If you want to know a bit about the methodology (and I mean “a bit”), see this Interbrand site page

For the third year running, the world’s top brand in terms of value is Apple, and it was also a big gainer in brand value from last year (43% improvement). The camera companies generally don’t tend to appear at the top of the global brand value list. Samsung is 7th, though almost certainly not because of anything in terms of standalone cameras. Canon is 40th, Sony 58th, Panasonic 65th. Adobe clocks in at 68th. 

This year, Interbrand also publicly reported “Japan’s Best Global Brands.” Here, we’ll obviously find camera companies, so let’s look. Sure enough:

  • #3 Canon (6% improvement from last year)
  • #4 Sony (-4% drop from last year)
  • #6 Panasonic (8% improvement from last year)
  • #16 Nikon (-29% drop from last year)
  • #20 Ricoh (+4 improvement from last year)

Now obviously many of these companies are (mostly) known for things other than cameras. Still, brand value is driven by marketing and advertising and customer perception. What sticks out Interbrand’s report is this summary line: “Meanwhile, Nintendo and Nikon fell substantially in value, unable to adjust to the rapid changes in their main areas of business.”

Hmm. Nikon’s still making good profit. They make arguably the best all around interchangeable lens camera available in the D810. They’ve got a number of products from the Coolpix P900 to the 200-500mm f/5.6 lens that are total sell outs. How can it be that their brand value is going down substantially?

Because their customers aren’t being given a clear, meaningful, and complete message about what Nikon is doing and what the future will be. Because some of Nikon’s customers are feeling completely ignored. Because customer service has gotten down into the Comcast-level of customer satisfaction. Because too many products have shipped with flaws, and not all of those were dealt with well or gracefully. Because Nikon hasn’t actually made a strong step into the modern age of communicating products.  

Yes, I’m tough on Nikon. They need to get far, far better to survive what’s happening in the consumer world of imaging world today. I’m reminded of how bad some of the American auto companies got as they encountered constant shifts and challenges that began with the first oil crisis in the 70’s and ended with the Great Recession in 2008. 

In the first quarter of 2016 Nikon will release a number of very important and hopefully seminal products. It’s no secret that the D5 will be one of them, but there are others, as well. Thing is, it isn’t “good product” that Nikon needs. They have plenty of good products. What Nikon needs is to re-excite people about those products. To make customers believe that there is a long and rich heritage that is being extended far into the future and capable of keeping up with needs and desires. 

But frankly, the most important thing is simple: they need to stop treating customers like cattle they can ignore most of the time and herd when they need them. 

I shot sports (yes sports) with a Sony A7rII last week. Much more on that coming up next week as I catch up. But the thing that struck me is this: the sports pros won’t find Sony ready yet, but the soccer moms and dads certainly might. 

Nikon is in a dogfight. Yet their reputation is going down. They need to not only win the fight but restore their reputation. 

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