Nikon extends brand to mass market

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Nikon, long a favorite among professional photographers, is trying to expand its user base by leveraging its brand into new consumer products.

"One of the challenges we've always had, given our great brand reputation, is, how do you go with this in the mass market?" said William Giordano, national marketing manager, consumer digital products at Nikon.

Nikon hopes to meet that challenge with new compact point-and-shoot cameras that fit in a pocket. The two additions to its 35mm line are the One-Touch Zoom 90QD and the Light-Touch Zoom 120ED/QD. The One-Touch is set to hit shelves this month priced at $129.


To reach new consumers, Nikon has added mass market retailers to its traditional channels of photo-specialty and computer stores and catalogs. Its point-and-shoot cameras, as well as its digital products under $1,000, will be sold at Target Stores and possibly two or three other, similar retailers.

"It makes Nikon more of an accessible brand," a spokeswoman said.

Extending the brand has been a Nikon mandate since Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, won the account in 1994, said Tom McEnery, group director at Fallon. When the agency came on board, it altered Nikon's nearly 30-year-old tagline, "We take the world's greatest pictures," adding the word "Yours."

Fallon is still working on creative for the One-Touch and the Light-Touch, set to break in May consumer magazines, but the strategy is to show that Nikon cameras are not just for the professional but also for the person "who wants to take the greatest picture at Disney World," Mr. McEnery said.


In April, Nikon also will debut a new camera in its Advanced Photo System line, the Nuvis S 2000, a slightly higher-end camera at a list price of $225, whose sleek, contemporary design is geared to the consumer who wants a fashion accessory as well as a camera. Print breaks in summer travel magazines. The "style-oriented" ads show the camera as "a piece of art that someone stumbles upon," Mr. Giordano said.

Nikon, however, is not abandoning the higher-end, digital camera market, as evidenced by the April launch of its $1,000 Coolpix 990. Its new ad, breaking in May photo and computer magazines, targets the "discriminating digital camera user" with "extreme close-ups and high level of detail," Mr. McEnery said.

The ad shows the bare chest and wrapped hands of a boxer with the copy line: "Print out undisputable proof that boxing is indeed an art form." The word "print" is illustrated by the computer print icon to emphasize the applications of digital imaging.

Analyst Richard Rambaldo of Associated Research Services said "Nikon is known well in the professional realm. . . . If they can carry over that name brand to the mass market, I think they'll have success."


But Michael Ellmann, an analyst at Schroder & Co., questions if Nikon's "aura" can carry it into the mass market, where price is often the determining factor. In an industry where about two-thirds of cameras are selling at $69 or less, Nikon's lowest-price One-Touch, at $129, might not be a competitor, he said.

"We don't design me-too cameras," Mr. Giordano said. "Nikon still demands that high reputation in consumers' minds."

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