The Nikon D80 Blogger Program and My Canon EOS 30D

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Photo taken with Canon EOS 30D

Picture This, I have had a long term relationship with Nikon. It seems now that it was one-sided. An elaborate invitation for a Nikon D80 did not arrive in my mailbox last April. I was not on the Nikon D80 Blogger Outreach dance card.

A Nikon D80 is a very nice camera….and I really needed a new camera.

So as I read some of my favorite bloggers write about their loaners, well I kind of wondered, what if…But like Peter Kim, cool has not chased me for anything more than expensive than a book.

But, it did make me start thinking…Now, CK did a great job articulating all of those blogger relations/blogger outreach and just blogger issues; credibility, transparency, incentives, even community building. And lots of smart, credible, community builders wrote thoughtful comments on her post.

It was just that I was thinking about my relationship with the Nikon Brand.

My very first SLR camera purchased shortly after college graduation was a Nikormat.My recollection is that I saved for quite some time to accumulate enough cash to make that camera my own.
As the years passed, I accumulated quite a collection of Nikons; even the lenses from the Nikormat found a home on my last film camera, the Nikon ProneaS. My first digital camera was a very large CoolPix990. The remnants of my Nikon graveyard is memorialized above.

I had been using a Nikon 7600 basic point and shoot when I began my pursuit of something more. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that from the time that I bought the Nikormat, that I had purchased a camera that wasn’t a Nikon. It seems to me that the D80 Blogger Outreach program changed my beliefs about Nikon.

Now, I am fairly brand loyal….I don’t get why anyone but Heinz or Hellman’s even bothers to make catsup or mayonnaise respectively; and no Pepsi is not an acceptable substitute for Coke. (Full disclosure, Heinz has been a client) But then again, after three Volvo’s, the last one was so awful I would not make any brand based assumptions in considering a future purchase.

And for me, Nikon meant camera. I started with the brand and then decided which one. Before the D80 Blogger Program that is.

I thought the Nikon Flickr program was inspired….sending D80′s to Flickr users and letting them experience the camera by creating content to upload on Flickr, that became brand advertising. The program was a kind of community mash-up that linked Flickr, photographers and the Nikon D80, engaging to all.

The D80 Blogger program was not built on exactly the same principles…and I am talking about the principles of designing the context for users to experience a brand, create content and let the content and the users market the brand, not anyone’s personal principles.

Joseph Jaffe, a D80 participant, seems to have something else altogether going on with his podcast for iPhones and more, and certainly is generating lots of opinions as John Moore points out.
All that aside, what theD80 program and the discussion that followed did for me was to point out that despite my years of Nikon brand loyalty that there were bloggers who perhaps had never spent a single cent on a Nikon product, who maybe didn’t even take many pictures or ever blog about anything photo related who were going to get a really awesome and expensive camera for f-r-e-e.

The Sprint Ambassador program evoked similar thoughts….Lots of bloggers I knew had free Sprint phones and free calls. I was a paying customer.

I had been a Sprint customer for years but for the past several had issues ranging from product quality to service quality, to billing and customer service. I not only couldn’t get my problems solved, when asked at the end of one of the many marathon customer service sessions if there was anything else they could do to for me and I mentioned that I could use a new phone, the rep said that they just weren’t able to do that anymore for customers. Guess all the phones were going to all those Ambassadors.

So, as I went into serious search for new camera mode, instead of evaluating Nikon cameras only, I looked at other Brands. I found my way to Canon and eventually to the 30D, purchased in July. I love it. I am still in learning mode and it will be a while before I can commit to Canon brand loyalty. That takes time and positive experience.

Aside, I read yesterday that the new Canon 40D is due out next month. Did I move too soon?

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Joseph Jaffe August 21, 2007, 6:44 pm

    It’s a very interesting and relevant thought. Why is it that a loyal, paying customer would take second place to one with no prior relationship or affiliation.

    I’m not sure it’s fair to hold Nikon responsible for passing you over (not that you’re saying that at all) in favor of more undeserving people (me :)) The common thread is that both of us are bloggers….but I’m not sure it’s enough to call them out over.

    I think your argument is VERY valid however with how corporations treat their customers versus prospects for example. Why is it that a new cellphone is cheaper to a customer who purchases a 2-year contract versus a tenured and loyal one that wants to change their phone mid-contract for example.

    Nikon’s influencer outreach program was one of the best I’ve seen (and not just because I was one of the participants). Could they have done it better as per many of CK’s suggestions? Sure. Everyone can improve.

    Should they only have reached out to Nikon bloggers? Perhaps. Should they have focused on photographers versus general influencers. Perhaps. I couldn’t tell you as I wasn’t a part of the program’s braintrust.

    The x factor here is whether Nikon is monitoring or reading THIS post and if so, what they do about it…even if it’s a thank-you to you and an acknowledgment for your business.

    PS I hope you get your Nikon :)

  • Marianne Richmond August 21, 2007, 10:58 pm

    Thanks for your comments.

    Maybe you have answered this already somewhere but why do you think this program was one of the best…actually, I would be curious to know what any of these high ticket “loaner” outreach programs actually contribute to the success of a product launch as measured by sales & profit.

    In the specific case of the Nikon D80, it just doesn’t seem like other than a very few “got an invite in mail” posts and a few “see my photos” posts there doesn’t seem to be that much going on…certainly not as much as the more widely discussed Vista/Ferrari ” loaner”.

    Also, nothing that I did read coming from the D80 bloggers really provided content compelling enough to make someone say, “gotta have it.”

    And in the absence of the compelling content or” OMG life changing stories” few of the bloggers had enough photo expertise to just simply be credible. Maybe that was just me and I am missing something.

    I was also trying to demonstrate that there might be a risk in these kinds of programs of bloggers scorned….not that I posted a “hell has no fury” post; just that when people love your brand, maybe publicly indicating that you really don’t love them back, and actually love people who have never used your brand more.

    But for Nikon and others maybe they are completely on top of the risks and maybe the benefits way out weigh them

    YOUR point about this x factor is one that I always find interesting…companies monitoring blogs (hey, we see you in our site meters) and then not engaging….even if it is just a brief comment or thank you that might take a nano second longer than the visit.

    Thanks for your PS…but you know, I already coughed up the cash for the Canon.

    Marianne

  • Toby August 25, 2007, 11:21 am

    Great post and critical concepts that any company considering a blogger relations program must consider. Tapping into “perceived” influential bloggers (what does that mean anyway???) to help create buzz is such a new idea with little past learnings to understand how to balance customer loyalty with “hope to have online impact” leading to purchase behavior.

    It’s a tight rope walk right now .. from understanding how not to compromise the integrity of bloggers, to which bloggers to invite to how to provide value to a wider community to how not to piss off a loyal customer. I’m not sure what all the answers are but I can’t wait to see the next round of challenges.

  • Peter August 29, 2007, 12:58 pm

    I thought the Nikon outreach program was deeply flawed, and don’t think its enough to say “hey, we all could have done things better”. The execution was slipshod and the choice of bloggers misguided. It really, really isn’t brain surgery to find the *right* social media influencers to send cameras to. They give social media planning a bad name. Finally – let’s be honest – it isn’t a groundbreaking idea either!! I should disclose I am not a blog writer, so not one of the many bitter – albeit more qualified – bloggers who didn’t get a freebie!)

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