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Women Back In Photo Driver’s Seat

New York — With digital cameras flourishing in the mass market, the traditional purchasing and usage patterns associated with the old analog model are reasserting themselves — and that means women are back in the driver’s seat.

Perhaps no camera manufacturer has been the beneficiary of this gender shift more than Kodak. While the company failed to gain significant market traction in the early days of digital imaging — a time when the technology was novel and the demographic base skewed heavily toward male early adopters — it has seen its competitive fortunes rebound on a wave of female purchasers.

It’s no coincidence that 2004 saw both the emergence of women as the primary users of digital cameras and Kodak claiming the top spot in digital camera sales, said Laura Klein, VP/marketing director, Kodak.

“Our success has grown with the entry of women into this market,” Klein said. “This year, 70 percent of consumers getting into this category will be women.” If the digital still camera market mimics its 35mm counterpart, women will account for three-quarters of the products users, according to the Photo Marketing Association.

As such, Klein said the overwhelming majority of its marketing efforts — 90 percent — will be geared toward women. The message is simple, Klein said: “The cameras are easy to use and you can get a real Kodak picture without using a computer.”

Unlike their spec-obsessed male counterparts, female purchasers view digital cameras as a means to an end — a photo print — and are more receptive to a message that stresses the outcome, Klein said.

“If you talk megapixels, optical zoom, then 50 to 60 percent of your customers won’t listen,” she said.

That assessment was confirmed by a recent Lyra Research survey identifying Kodak as the preferred digital camera brand for woman — a success Lyra’s president Charles LeCompte attributed to the company’s brand heritage and success at steering the message away from technical minutia and toward the elements of photography that resonate with women.

The shift toward an ends-oriented customer has also propelled the fortunes of Epson’s PictureMate — the top selling 4-inch by 6-inch photo printer during last year’s holiday selling season, according to The NPD Group, Port Washing, N.Y. Fabia Ochoa, group product manager, Epson, said the company markets the product to the “chief memory officer” of the household — the mom.

“Their mindset is: If you don’t have a print, you don’t have a picture,” Ochoa said.