Nikon Is Generation Image

The NY Times today broke a story on Nikon’s new marketing campaign in the US, targeted at millennial consumers through mostly millennial-consumed media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), and called I Am Generation Image.

Well, we heard that Nikon was going to ramp up the marketing, so how are they doing?

First take a look at the videos (Stream, Journey), then come on back. 

Journey is easy to deal with: it’s the D40/D80 campaign redone for millennials (e.g. “we gave cameras to [group] and here’s what they did.” That original D40 campaign was quite successful for Nikon, by the way. There’s a lot of power in “ordinary people used our product to do this.” If the results are good enough, other ordinary people immediately believe they, too, will create such results. Of course, the results have to be results they’d want to create and can’t already create.

I find it ironic that the Web site Nikon put up to support the campaign,, has as it’s first user prompt “watch the film.” Which turns out to be the Journey commercial ;~). Wait, you need video to sell stills?

The second irony is that so many of the images shown could have been done with a smartphone (check Becky & Sam’s gallery, which starts with a selfie; don’t try that with the 18-55mm). Darren’s and Rikki's galleries don’t exactly tell me why I need a DSLR, either. 

The third irony is that “the story” icons all lead to, yep, more videos. Isn’t Nikon trying to sell us still cameras here? Apparently not. Frankly, the videos are better than the stills and often visually more compelling. Of course we’re not told what they were created with (let’s hope it was Nikons ;~). 

The final irony is at the very bottom of the screen: images shared via Instagram. Hmm. I’ve seen better Instagram galleries from smartphones. 

I also some of the bits in the NY Times article to be problematic:

  • "Hey, it could work, based on the number of hipsters who can be glimpsed on or near Manhattan subway trains reading books not digitally but in vintage paperback or hardcover editions.” Uh, could it be that if you lose your printed book on the subway you’re only out a few dollars and don’t have to worry about your privacy being invaded by whoever found it? Equating inexpensive books with expensive DSLRs seems a stretch, and isn’t the usual level of analogy I expect to find in the NY Times.
  • "Although digital camera sales are declining, Ms. Baxt said, “we see strong sales for our D.S.L.R.” products, which are priced in a range of $500 to $1,500.” Wow, The D4s must have really come down in price ;~). But the quote from Ms. Baxt is disingenuous, as well. Nikon’s DSLR sales are declining. All you have to do is look at their recent financial statements. Come on NY Times, you can fact check better than that (and is D.S.L.R. really in the NY Times style guide?).

Much more interesting is the last paragraph of the article: 2012 ad spending by Nikon was US$89.6m while 2013 ad spending was US$31.4m. The cost of I Am Generation Image? US$5 to 7m. Hmm, isn’t there a story there?

Look, I get it. Nikon’s trying to shift their ad focus towards a new generation of purchasers. Good on that. Does the initial campaign actually tell that audience how a Nikon camera delivers more than an iPhone in this respect? No. Apple’s already done all their heavy lifting, and frankly, in better fashion. 

I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to marketing: tell the prospective customer why your product makes a difference to them. I’m not seeing that in Nikon’s new campaign. A far better choice would have been I Am Standing Out, then using images from millennials taken with Nikons that truly stand out. But what do I know? It’s not like I built multi-million dollar products out of nowhere with marketing. Oh wait, maybe I did. Can’t seem to remember too well today as I’m having a senior moment ;~). 

I don’t expect this campaign to generate a lot of traction. Where’s the sell line? Heck, I didn’t even see a “you can only do this with Nikon” type of pitch anywhere, so even if it does intrigue a millennial to look at D.S.L.R.s (sorry ;~), they might buy one from someone else because Nikon forgot to tell them why the Nikon part was important. 

Oh, and the camera Nikon sent these millennials to make all these great shots? D750, 24-120mm and 70-200mm f/4 lenses, a Speedlight, and because all great stills need it, a microphone.  

Ugh. I really hate writing articles like this. Tomorrow I’ll try something more positive. 

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