By Published on .

"Smile, your fly is open!"

That's just one silly saying possible with the Polaroid OneStep Talking camera, a wholly new concept pioneered by Andrew York, marketing manager of new products at Polaroid. The camera comes with three pre-programmed messages on its voice chip and also allows users to record their own.

"It was so unique and novel, it was a totally different feature than [Polaroid executives] were expecting to see," says Mr. York, 30. "We brought in a new techology not typically used in cameras."

Unlike most camera companies that add features like zoom lenses or automatic flashes, Polaroid decided to go with "fun" as its selling point for the OneStep line extension.

Mr. York came up with the idea behind the camera when he heard a "talking" greeting card, and developed the product with a "program team" starting in March 1994. The camera debuted a year later and sold 250,000 in its first three months, compared with the regular base model, which sells more than 2 million annually.

One Wal-Mart store used the talking camera to greet customers on their way in and sold out its inventory the same day; at Nobody Beats the Wiz, the talking camera, which costs $10 more than the basic model, is outselling the base unit 2 to 1.

"It's interactive, you get people to loosen up," says Mr. York.

Polariod is now testing a promotional program where store greeters snap shoppers with the talking camera in Kmart, Target and other Wal-Mart stores, with plans to take the promotion national in the fourth quarter.

As for advertising, Polaroid supports the camera with a $9 million campaign created by Burrell Communications, Chicago, playing up the fun aspect of the camera, featuring comedian Sinbad surprising his photo subjects with funny recordings. Media support, however, is taking a break over the summer; advertising picks up again in October.

The camera is available in Canada and other countries, where different recordings are included, such as animal noises and sound effects.

Polaroid plans to change the messages twice a year, Mr. York says, and may in the future include famous movie lines, comedian jokes and TV sports announcers.

Get the picture?

Most Popular
In this article: