Canon started out in 1937 as a business making camera bodies that used Nikkor lenses. In time the companies came together and Nikon was born. Nikon has a fantastic history of innovation in the world of cameras. But back in the mid-20th centuary, marketing was advertising. Nikon grew as a brand in a time when all a brand needed to do to grow, was employ a good ad agency who could create snappy strap-lines.

Canon is one of the elder statesmen of the camera world.

GoPro, in comparison, is the vibrant, excitable and – crucially – inventive upstart. The company was set up in 2002 by founder Nick Woodman. Within four years Woodman launched his first digital camera. GoPro is a child of the social media era. YouTube was launched in February 2005 and was the ideal outlet for the early adopters using the early GoPro cameras. From the outset, GoPro saw the value of ‘user generated content’.

GoPro is the young buck in the camera world.

But age – especially for brands – is just a number. With its latest marketing move, Canon has shown that embracing changes is not just possible, but can be essential to the growth of the business.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Canon has just announced an influencer marketing programme. The programme will involve 40 influencers covering a range of sectors (including food, travel and fashion). Canon has run a programme called Explorers of Light, for 42 professional photographers who represent the company at events, for the last 23 years. The influencer programme is designed to ensure amateur influencers see images taken by people they can relate to as well as generating content to be shared through both Canon’s and the influencers’ social channels.

Canon is straying right into GoPro’s territory with a first piece from the influencer campaign that has daredevils sliding out of an airplane with inflatable pool-toys and then parachuting to earth.

Doris Tsai, senior director of marketing for Canon, says that the brand is working with an agency to deliver the influencer activations. According to Tsai, the reasons for this are probably familiar to many marketers: in-housing influencer campaigns require time, something that Canon cannot accomplish now because it has such a small team. Tsai also says that Canon also benefits from the expertise and connections that working with an agency provides.

According to Digiday:

For Canon, influencers aren’t just a means to connect with larger audiences; they are their target audience. The rise of smartphones has brought about the rise of amateur photography, giving everyone the means to take photos whenever they want. That might be a boon to the general public, but for Canon, the company needs to know whether this group is sticking to their phones or bringing in their own products.

Canon is bringing in its own intel by surveying influencers themselves. In October, the company partnered with Harris Poll to survey 1,000 influencers on whether they use cameras, and not just their smartphones, in creating their content. The study found that 73 percent of influencers own a DSLR camera, and 86 percent said that a camera is the most important tool they use to create content.

“It’s a misconception among creators that influencers only use their smartphones,” said the company. “By collaborating with influencers, we create an opportunity to educate the next generation of creatives about how the advanced features and benefits of cameras can elevate the quality of their content.”

Take Away Lessons

So what does all this mean for Canon and GoPro? Well in terms of social reach and interaction, GoPro is the Usain Bolt of cameras – so far ahead of the competition that everyone else is racing for second place. But measured by social reach and engagement, Canon is far ahead of all the other camera companies.

At the same time, 73% of influencers surveyed by Canon said that they use a DSLR to create content. GoPro does not have that sort of penetration in the key influencer market.

For an endurance sports brand, the parallels are obvious: running, cycling and outdoors influencers (such as those found on the Freestak platform) use the products and services that you are selling. They are doing the activities your products or services were designed for. Plus they create and distribute content to thousands (in some cases millions) of potential customers for your business.

So the lesson here is that a brand doesn’t have to have been forged in the era of social media and influencers to make the most of the arbitrage that currently exists. The brand – or at least the people responsible for marketing – just need to have an open mind and curiosity about what influencers can do for the business.

The question is … is that your business?


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