The Photoimaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA) presents its 2006 Technical Achievement Award
The digital camera market continues to expand. Photography becomes even more intriguing with product development that incorporates user perspectives.
Tell us about Nikon's marketing strategy, another pillar of the company's success as a manufacturer of consumer goods.
To tell the truth, we were able to put a face to Nikon customers during the film camera era. This may have made us a bit too dependent on past experience with regard to our marketing strategy at that time. As we entered the digital era we hoped that a broad range of consumers would use our products, but found that serious marketing was required if we were to remain competitive. Furthermore, among our competitors are manufacturers of consumer electronics experienced in mass production. Nikon felt that effective marketing had become truly important if we were to stand on the same ground as this type of competition. So, we now place great emphasis on full-scale, effective marketing, and we are beginning to see considerable results for all of our products.
Can you give us some specifics?
When we began development of the D1 we felt that it was important to have a clear understanding of what was expected of digital cameras, so we gathered opinions from thousands of consumers. This resulted in what later became Nikon's defining concepts for digital cameras—“Superb Image Quality,” “Ultra High Speed,” and “Ease of Use.” More recently, we added a new direction with the concepts, “Delightful,” “Exciting,” and “Hip.” The “Superb Image Quality,” “Ultra High Speed,” and “Ease of Use” concepts originate from a manufacturing point of view, and are the characteristics we want to use to appeal to customers' reason. “Delightful,” “Exciting,” and “Hip,” on the other hand, emerged with the desire to appeal to customers on an emotional level. Therefore, market entry considering the customer's point of view has become very important when manufacturers introduce new products. I get the sense that our desire to create cameras and software that customers find exciting is becoming stronger all the time.
I see. So you must have really maximized consideration of customer perspective with models like the D70 that are popular with such a broad range of users, from beginners to more advanced hobbyists.
That is absolutely correct. At the onset of development, we began consultation by going back to the basics of what it is to take pictures. We proceeded with each project determined to develop a camera that would not stress users and that would allow users to enjoy their photographs. We were ever mindful of the fact that the user, regardless of ability or experience, plays the leading role in photography, and I feel confident that this is what led to the camera's favorable market reception.
Nikon has always had a strong image as being for professionals. May we assume that a broader range of users will be targeted in the future?
I believe so. I would like to see Nikon offering a variety of possibilities to more and more people. We have a very strong desire to broaden our market. Even during the film camera era, we never intended to target only professional photographers, but perhaps we simply weren't conspicuous enough. In this new digital age, however, the scale of the market has increased so much, especially if we consider all types of cameras, including those built into cell phones. To compete in this environment we offer cameras that we hope consumers will find appealing, like those in the COOLPIX L series that allow anyone to enjoy high quality pictures and stylish models like those in the COOLPIX S series. We want consumers to think of Nikon as always offering products on the cutting edge.
Reliability breeds emotion. We will continue to offer the quality, reliability, and innovation that consumers have come to expect from the Nikon name.
It seems that just about everything related to the camera industry has changed in a period of less than ten years. What direction do you think Nikon should take in the future?
I like the fact that Nikon is not a flashy company. We have not established the Nikon name or reputation with obvious means that include offering excessive discounts or spending huge amounts of money on advertising that creates an artificial image. We prefer to build relationships with our customers and to offer them reliable products that speak for both themselves and Nikon. This stance is one of Nikon's best qualities, and I would like to think that the high regard for the Nikon name, throughout the industry and the market, been acquired naturally.
Do you think that “reliable products that speak for themselves” will become a catch phrase in Nikon's future?
If I could add one more thing, one of my favorite statements recently has been, “Create products by first considering how the average living room will look five years from now.” Will users be able to enjoy what they've captured with their cameras in living rooms five years from now? I think it is important for us to first consider how imaging, Nikon's business, will be utilized in living rooms five years from now, and then to use such speculation in determining how we should proceed. It is not enough for us to simply develop the camera that follows the D200 so that it is better than the D200. It is more important that we consider what we can do for the imaging business than what we can do with individual products. I believe that this way of thinking will allow us to create new value for our customers. So, if reliability is the essence of Nikon, I would like to develop business activities that help us to see how new values will be seen in the future.
What do you think about technologies that support the creation of products?
Mr. Tsutomu Konno, Vice Chairman of TV Man Union wrote that there is a vast difference between the animation of Japan and that of Walt Disney. He said that Walt Disney's feature animated films tend to be shorter than their Japanese counterparts, but with a higher number of individual frames. The higher number of frames makes movement appear extremely smooth and technically beautiful. Though longer with fewer frames, Japanese feature animated films exhibit the extremely skillful combination of frames that are part of motion sequences and those that remain still. The frames of still portions draw the viewer in and elicit sentiment and emotion. So, it is possible for emotion to be an integral part of still images or, in other words, of photographs. This is likely the true power of photographs. If we compare movies that provide a lot of information with still images that provide only a very limited amount of information, we find that people are extremely sensitive to the limited amount of information provided by still images. This is a merit of the photographs that we have been involved with for so long, and I hope that we can find new ways to utilize and increase this natural sensitivity.
Do you mean creating images that transmit emotion?
Yes. I believe it is important for us to find ways to appeal to users' sensitivity both physically and emotionally. Naturally, a comfortable grip appeals to physical sensitivity, and is one way that we can help users feel a sense of excitement when they use our cameras. I want Nikon to continue satisfying customers with such physical aspects, but I also want to preserve the emotional aspects that determine how users feel when they view and display their photographs. I believe that the ability to faithfully give shape to feelings and emotions is a new value that customers find appealing. Perhaps this ability represents the impression consumers have of the Nikon name.
Finally, can you comment on Nikon's newest digital-SLR camera, the extremely popular D200?
Now this is a great camera! We made extensive improvements with this model, equipping it with a very good balance of the latest technologies. Many of the advanced technologies utilized by our high-end cameras, such as the D2X, have even been improved with the D200. The new AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens is also packed with a number of superior technologies and components. We didn't cut any corners with either of these products.