Yesterday's Fool Page

If somehow you missed my April Fools' joke, you'll want to see what the main page of looked like yesterday, so click here before reading on.

April Fools' day is for playing practical jokes and attempting to spread hoaxes on the unsuspecting. Those work best when there's an element of believability in them. Apparently I succeeded. Wildly so. Dozens of you wrote to me about my "switch" to Sony, my teaching assistant was asked if he was also going to switch, and forum posts on other sites popped up announcing my switch. 

And that's the topic of today's point about Nikon. The fact that so many people believed that I was switching to Sony is a problem for Nikon. Yes; read that sentence again. Think about it a moment. 

Why would people actually think I would switch to Sony? Because their perception of Nikon is that Nikon has fallen behind in some way, isn't providing something they want, and doesn't have a future (doh! don't read my other article today ;~). 

I should point out that there were a couple of people who thought I was "switching for money." They assumed that I'm subsidized in some way by Nikon (!) and that Sony had made me a better offer. I'll repeat for the umpteenth time: I'm not in this for money, I have no relationship with Nikon other than being a member of their NPS program like pretty much every other Nikon-shooting pro, and if someone did offer me money to be a spokesman of some sort, I'd disclose that right up front.

I've been writing the following for a long time: Nikon has a customer perception problem. They make the best-in-class DSLR in every class. Yet their market share even just within DSLRs declines. How can that be? Well it be because Nikon's marketing is mostly non-existent, non-functional, and non-performing. Nikon certainly isn't spreading the word outside the converted about how good those Nikon DSLRs actually are. As you may have noted from my D7500 review, Nikon doesn't even seem to have a message in response to the Internet frenzy that condemned them for feature removal (from the D7200), yet the camera itself is clearly better than its predecessor. 

Nikon's customer perception problem is amplified by all the cutbacks the company has been making. Some of that becomes an additional problem. Last week I had two people send me an email about a "problem" they had with their new camera and Nikon customer support not being able to respond other than say "send the camera in to be checked." But in both cases, it was a clear misunderstanding by the customer about something, not a camera problem. Those cameras would have gone back to Nikon, been examined, and nothing would have been found wrong with them if I hadn't corrected that customer's knowledge about something. In essence, that would have been a real dollars out-of-pocket cost to Nikon coupled with not appearing to solve the customer's problem. Double whammy. 

You can appear to cut costs (customer support training that would recognize what the problem really was), yet actually increase your costs (unnecessary repair time and shipment costs). In most businesses, what happens when the accountants get power is this: things that don't have an income line (customer support) get cost cutting ad naseum. While things that do have an income line (repairs) get far less pressure as long as the bottom line is positive. Why are camera manuals so poor? No income line, all cost. Why is support so poor? No income line, all cost. The list goes on and on. 

It doesn't actually matter much which perception problem we talk about with Nikon—no prosumer compacts, no updates for CX, no complete DX lens set, apparent non-iteration of new models (D3400, D7500), no competitive mirrorless option, no road map, little visible marketing, etc.—a perception problem is always a huge liability for any company. 

That people were immediately willing to believe my April 1 post that I had switched to Sony—despite all my hints, exaggerations, and even a hidden easter egg—is due to people's perception of Nikon, not to my excellence as a writer of deception. 

Sadly, no one in Nikon's Tokyo HQ seems to understand the extent of their perception problem. Most of the talk I've heard about centers only around what's the right product specs to get people's attention. Yes, it will take a well-specified and executed product to get attention, but there's a friction of discontent that Nikon will be surfing against no matter how good the next product is. That friction grows with each passing day we get no announcements, and with every negative perception boost that comes along. 

This is all playing out against a different set of problems Nikon has: they haven't actually written down the China plant and the collapse of Coolpix, Keymission, and Nikon 1 yet, and thus bad financial news still looms over the organization as they get ready to announce their fiscal year results in early May. They've tried to paper over the problem with dividend increases and other small short term success messages, but anyone paying close attention knows that Nikon has a longer term problem that they haven't yet reversed in their Imaging business. 

To all of you who enjoyed the April 1st post and sent me messages about it, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. To all those that didn't get the joke, let's hope Nikon does something that bolsters your perception of them soon.

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