Camera Color Becomes Critical Option



This year we're seeing some really wild things going on with camera colors and cosmetics; How important has that become in driving the market?

Chuck Westfall, Canon

:  Color is definitely more important than ever.  It's been interesting to see how it started off as kind of a niche. Now you start to see it in every line, whether for us it's the A series and then the entry-level Ls and then the higher-end L's and all that within the point-and-shoot area for sure.  There's a lot of opportunity there.  A couple of things are feeding it.  One is the fact that with the evolution of e-commerce it's not so difficult for the retailers to store the merchandize or order the merchandise. Another thing is that it's not just women who are caring about color. Men are also looking at color as a form of personalization.  They may not choose the same colors as women, but the colors are there for them and they tend to want to have a choice between a black or a silver, dark brown, or whatever it is.  It really is not so much about gender exactly as it is about personalization.  That's why we're seeing such a broad range of product colors available now.


Are you looking at other markets to determine what colors are going to be the ones to go for, and how do you make that determination?

Mark Sherengo, Pentax:

  For us when we had to launch the first color d-SLRs in a category, we looked at the PC numbers to see how the mass accepted color.  For example, we worked with Dell computers to see what colors were selected by what age, by what-whether male or female, and to Chuck's point there are a lot of males buying color.  Thus we have our navy blue digital camera along with our black model, and the white is kind of a universal color for males or females in our category.  We also worked along with some companies and got some information on what was being accepted.  We picked four primary colors because we had to.  Pentax Japan offered 100 colors and 100 solutions.

Mark Sherengo, Pentax

:  Even changing the actual pad out, and I think because they offered that, I'm here today because it just outsold expectations.  It penetrated a category.  It allowed that 13- to 23-year-old user to individualize themselves, which is important in that market in Japan and eventually our goal is to keep bringing that closer to North America than it is now. But right now we offer 40 colors that we have available now.  We'll introduce four more this month, and then by the fall our new product will have the same kind of category, so color is vital to our existence in this category for us. 


  Is anyone looking at the automotive industry or the fashion industry and the runways of Milan for color trends?

Pete Palermo:

  We look at many different sectors of the economy, not just automobiles, or mobile phones, or PCs, or fashion.  We look at consumer trends that go beyond consumer products, so attitudes during the economic turmoil that we're having, you know how people are spending their money, what they're doing with their time, it all has an influence on what they buy and how they feel.  We change colors every year, probably more than once a year depending on the category.  Always looking for ways to stay in pace but one step ahead so trying to stay ahead of you guys a little bit, but in pace with what's going on in other categories.  There's lots of change.  We used to look at cell phones and say, `oh, yeah, those are next year's colors.'  Maybe not, because I think a lot of us started to look at other consumer products for some advice and insights.  Colors are very important country to country, you know, so our primary target consumer in the U.S. is slightly different than in India, or China, or Japan, or Latin America. Attitudes towards color are different from one country to another.  It's an art and science.


So what's the hot color for the U.S. this Christmas?

Rich Campbell, Samsung:

  You know, I think what is interesting, most of us all work for global companies now, and I'm sure a lot of us have, design centers or R&D facilities in different places.  Samsung as a global entity, to Pete's point, and we have customers that have different needs, different trends, different desires, different colors, so I think style plays a lot of role in what colors you choose. We have some products that are really slim, and sleek, and good looking, so maybe the whole thing doesn't need to be a unique color in and of itself, but you use colors as accidents to help bring out that style and design.  We're fortunate to have R&D centers, and design centers throughout the world.  We've got a design center in Milan actually.  I think, Greg, you mentioned Milan, and we have a product innovation team here in the United States that helps come up with concepts not only from a technology and feature standpoint, but what makes sense from a style and design perspective.  I think colors really play well into that, and it's very symbiotic with the style of the products.  Quite frankly as a consumer what a great time to buy a digital camera. You get great value, great features, great benefits for, you know, the price points that we're hitting, and, you know, these are products that you identify with.  They help you create that self expression, and they're products that you want to be seen with, you know, so it's kind of a-it's a great time to be a consumer in this space.


Does the desire for different colors change with the style of camera that's being purchased?

David Lee, Nikon:

  Certainly.  Depending on the place in the line up color has a big factor.  For Nikon, you know, we've been really very active in color for a long time, and when we look at what the overall trend of the industry is, we're usually going a little different than that in trend because color has been, I mean at mother's day the number one selling camera was a plumb camera, so that isn't a color you would think of as one gender or the other, but color drives based on what the price point of the product is, based on the demographic you're going after and it's an art to pick the color that will drive the business.  But it's certainly not always black or silver like our industry was for so many years.   As cameras have become more of an individual purchase, color has been a more and more important factor.

Dennis Eppel, Panasonic:

  One other thing I would say about color, we're very cognizant of color, and we actually talk to our customers about the color, what they think, so the buyers, the dealers, and users of course.  We try to get as much feedback as we can, but we're very, very careful because we've all had that bad experience about not having the right color.  So we try to limit them. Japan will come up with 1,000 different colors.  We're looking at those, and we've got one spot on the post-which color.  We have a good feeling on which colors will succeed.  Plum is one color that surprised me but it's doing very well for some reason.  Blues do very well and the silver and blacks are kind of mainstream. But you've got to be very careful with color.

Looking at the color selections for the various hybrids available outside and inside of the U.S. - some have chosen to go a little more aggressively.  I'm not going to name a color, but there are some that may be more feminine than others.  I think when you talk about the silvers and the blues, that's very gender neutral, which we've chosen for the most part with the hybrid cameras in the U.S. 


How are the retailers juggling this?  Are they going to carry all of these different colors? How do you determine which accounts get which colors?

Dennis Eppel:

  They judge very carefully.  They're very careful in the colors that the select because they obviously don't want to be stuck with a color that doesn't work as well, so my experience anyway is they really have a sense of which colors do fairly well.  Some might be questionable, so they'll take a chance and what they tend to do is those colors that are a little bit on the outside, they'll do a dot com type of purchases, not maybe in store right away, so they'll wait a little bit, see how it work on .com.  I it does well, then they may bring it in as regular SKU.  I don't think color is just gender.  It's obviously age, so, you know, there are different age groups that the colors change, so you're hitting price points, color, age and gender.

Mark Sherengo, Pentax

:  And knowing the buyer's age, I know our experience color wasn't a very accepted solution to put on the pedestal when you only have one choice.  It's a risk the buyer has to make, so offering a solution that helps with that risk, maybe offering the one that they put on the pedestal.  Stores have their top twenty available, and then they have their other hundred stores that are not as large in volume, so maybe put the traditional colors there and then their top twenty stores you put the color variation.  That seems to work for them, but I'll tell you it scared a lot of the buyers that are my age.

Chuck Westfall, Canon:

  With all due respect to Mark, I think that when we talk about color and cameras we're talking largely about the compact digital camera market as a whole.  And if we say that, then we have to look at how those cameras are being sold in the compact digital camera market. Somewhere north of 50 percent are being sold through the mass market chain and in that segment virtually everybody has got both an online presence as well as a brick-and-mortar component.  So those same dealers will have every color available in their on-line component, and then they'll pick colors for the store based on space. 


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