In 2001 Canon U.S.A., Inc., a subsidiary of the Japanese printer, copier, and peripherals manufacturer Canon Inc., introduced a compact digital-photo printer, which offered speed and the convenience of being able to connect directly to a digital camera. The category was small but growing, prompting Canon in the fall of 2003 to launch the ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign, developed with New York’s DCA Advertising. The goal was not only to support the launch of a new printer, the CP-300 Card Photo Printer, but also to bring energy to the category.
The $5 million ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign consisted of three television commercials, all of which demonstrated how a digital-camera user could quickly connect to a Canon Card Photo Printer and have a quality print in hand less than a minute and a half later. The television spots were supported by three print ads, which appeared in a variety of consumer magazines. They showed the Canon printer in typical picture-taking situations, such as at a child’s soccer game, at a wedding, and at a vacation destination.
Ending in the early weeks of 2004, the campaign succeeded in boosting sales and brand awareness, and it set the stage for the launch of the next generation of Canon compact printers. It also won an EFFIE award, which singled out the campaign for creative achievement.
Canon’s founders developed Japan’s first 35-millimeter camera in 1934 and incorporated their business three years later. Canon gained a foothold in the U.S. market after World War II, when American servicemen returned home with the high-quality Japanese cameras they had bought at military base exchanges. The company branched into business machines in the 1960s, first with calculators and then with photocopiers, a market in which Canon became a serious challenger to Xerox. In addition to successfully diversifying its business, Canon proved to be a savvy marketer over the years. Although Nikon produced better quality cameras, Canon was able to surpass Nikon as Japan’s top-selling camera brand in the early 1980s. In the United States, Canon also scored marketing triumphs with its EOS (electronic optical system) line of cameras in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s only one-fifth of Canon’s revenues came from camera sales, putting the company in a better position than Japanese rivals such as Minolta and Nikon, which suffered when camera sales dropped as a result of the market maturing. Canon was also less exposed than other camera companies as digital photography began to change the landscape at a rapid pace in the 1990s, and consumer electronics companies like Hewlett-Packard, Sony, and Nokia entered the field and used their marketing prowess to gain significant shares in the digital arena. Old-guard competitors such as Kodak, Polaroid, and Fuji miscalculated how rapidly digital technology would eclipse film, the sale of which had been highly profitable and difficult to give up. But by the start of the 2000s there was no doubt that digital had arrived. It was also becoming clear that, just as control of the film market had been the key to the success of Kodak and Fuji, whoever was able to stake a claim to the output side of digital photography (that is, prints) would be better positioned for the long term, especially given that cameras were evolving into just another consumer electronics product, one from which it became increasingly difficult to squeeze out a profit. At first, buyers of digital cameras made far fewer prints than expected, but the industry believed that eventually consumers would grow tired of being limited to just seeing their digital pictures on their computers, which was where pictures ended up when transferred from cameras or received by E-mail. Photo labs made it increasingly easy to have prints developed from digital files, and a number of competitors developed self-service kiosks, which were widely distributed to drug stores and other retail outlets.
Canon, already in the printer business, offered inkjet printers capable of printing photographs, but it also launched a Card Photo Printer called the CP-10, a small portable unit that a camera could connect to directly, producing high-quality four-by-six-inch photos, with or without borders. The printer used dye-sublimation technology, which applied wax in layers of color to produce sharper snapshots, making the photos more durable and resistant to liquids. The digital-still-photography market was small but growing. By the summer of 2003 Canon had a 15 percent share of the $204 million market, second only to Sony’s 18 percent. In the fall of 2003 Canon decided to relaunch the second-generation Card Photo Printer, the CP-100, while introducing the new CP-300 with more marketing muscle via the ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign.
The ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign cast a wide net, essentially aiming to appeal to all consumer digitalcamera owners. But within that large group there were specific audiences to target. The younger demographic, 25- to 35-year-olds, was especially attracted to the innovative technology as well as to the convenience of Canon’s Card Photo Printers, particularly the lessexpensive CP-100. One element of the campaign was a nine-college campus tour, developed in conjunction with Glamour magazine, during which the easy-to-use compact printers were demonstrated.
Another product demonstration effort was arranged with Saks Fifth Avenue, taking place at 55 of the department stores across the country. This facet was in keeping with another target of the campaign: middle-class women. According to research conducted by Kodak, about three-quarters of all family pictures were taken by women. Moreover it was wives and mothers who mostly maintained the family photo albums, for which they needed prints. An easy-to-use and fast printer was a perfect addition to a digital camera, but having already spent a lot of money on a camera, memory card, and other accessories, many consumers were not willing to shell out further for a Card Photo Printer, especially when photo labs, self-service kiosks, and online services could provide prints. Consequently the ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign also had to target consumers with a certain level of disposable income. Hence much of the advertising was tied to the kind of interests these people pursued, such as travel, music and entertainment, and home decorating.
Canon was established as Precision Optical Company in Japan in 1937. That same year the company dubbed the 35-millimeter camera it had developed the Kwanon, the name of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. In 1947 the name ‘‘Kwanon’’ was dropped in favor of the similar sounding, and more universal, ‘‘Canon,’’ which meant ‘‘precision’’ in Latin. The company changed its name as well, and Precision Optical became Canon Camera Company Limited. In 1966 Canon U.S.A., Inc., was formed, and three years later the parent company, which had successfully branched into office products by this time, shortened its name to Canon Inc.
Canon’s Card Photo Printers faced competition on a number of fronts. Because part of their appeal was speed and instant gratification, the company had to contend with Polaroid’s instant cameras. Polaroid, still wedded to film, had been devastated by digital technology, but it continued to enjoy a measure of success selling to the teen market its line of small I-Zone and JoyCam cameras and the small adhesive-backed ‘‘sticky film’’ they used. One-hour photo labs offering cheap, high-quality prints were also serious competitors with Canon, as were online services and the self-service kiosks produced by a number of companies, including Kodak, Polaroid, Olympus, IBM, Mitsubishi, Sony, and other, smaller players. In addition Canon’s new printers competed with home ink-jet printers, which were offered by a host of companies, such as Epson, Hewlett-Packard, and Canon itself. Direct competition came from other makers of specialty printers. Kodak offered an easy-to-use printer dock (employing continuous-tone thermal dye-transfer technology), and it spent large sums to pitch it to women as a portable party printer. Other companies also made small printers that used dye-sublimation technology, including the Olympus Camedia P-200, the Sony DPP-MP1, the Sony DPP-SV88, and the Panasonic PV-PD2100. In addition there were compact printers that relied on other technologies. Fujifilm’s NX-500 used a thermoautochrome process, while Hewlett-Packard’s PhotoSmart 100 Compact was the only printer in the category to rely on ink-jets.
In October 2003 Canon and DCA launched the $5 million ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ television and print campaign to promote the new CP-300 digital photo printer as well as to relaunch the less expensive CP-100 printer. Rather than position the products as just printers, the marketers chose to portray them as part of the entire picture-taking experience. The television spots and print ads both employed a square neon sign that read, ‘‘85 Sec Photo Lab.’’ The origins of the sign grew out of a personal experience. DCA creative director Rob Rosen told Adweek ’s Deanna Zammit, ‘‘We passed these onehour-photo-lab signs and we thought, ‘That’s a good icon.’ . . . Once we had that little mnemonic, we were able to lend it to print and TV.’’
The television commercials were aired on national cable channels and in local television markets that were also high-volume digital-camera markets. The three television spots were ‘‘Italian Woman,’’ ‘‘Half Pipe,’’ and ‘‘Sea Monster.’’ In the first, a 30-second spot, a sultry Italian woman dressed in red walked down a street, attracting the attention of a number of men (and a bulldog), including a young American tourist sitting at a sidewalk cafe´ table. He snapped a digital picture using a Canon camera, which he quickly connected to a Card Photo Printer to produce an instant picture. In the background could be heard the sounds of a car crash. The snapshot, held up to blend in with the scene of the village square, was removed to reveal the steaming car wreck, no doubt caused by the Italian woman. The spot’s voice-over commented, ‘‘Canon’s Card Photo Printer. Great prints easily. Anywhere you take pictures. The 85 second photo lab. Digital revolutionized photography. We revolutionize digital.’’ The spot also incorporated the ‘‘85 Sec Photo Lab’’ neon sign in the background. The 15-second ‘‘Half Pipe’’ spot featured a young woman taking a picture of a man performing a bicycle stunt at an extreme-sports half-pipe competition. As she quickly developed a print using her Canon Card Photo Printer, the sound of a siren could be heard. Once again the print was held up against the background, and when it was removed, the extreme bike rider was shown being loaded into an ambulance. The voice-over offered a variation of the ‘‘Italian Woman’’ text. The last of the three spots, the 15-second ‘‘Sea Monster,’’ showed a young man taking a picture of an unseen subject. He held up the photo, which showed a sea monster against a watery background, but when he removed the picture there was nothing visible but a ring of bubbles. The voice-over text was similar to that of ‘‘Half Pipe.’’ Neither of the two 15-second spots used the neonsign image, but the campaign’s three print ads did. They also used Canon’s corporate tagline, ‘‘Canon Know How.’’ One ad showed a Card Photo Printer turning out a picture at a wedding reception. Another placed the printer next to a soccer goal with a game in progress. The final print ad showed a Canon Card Photo Printer on a wicker table in a tropical paradise setting. The subject matter of the ads reflected the audiences the campaign targeted: families and consumers with enough income to afford traveling. The ads appeared in a variety of travel and lifestyle magazines.
The ‘‘85 Second Photo Lab’’ campaign continued into the spring of 2004 and succeeded in garnering recognition for Canon’s compact photo printers. The campaign was also successful on a creative level. In 2005 the campaign won the prestigious gold EFFIE award in the Computer Peripherals for Business/Personal Purposes category, presented by the New York American Marketing Association to honor creative achievement in the advertising industry. The award also recognized the campaign for ‘‘the results it generated in terms of measurably increased sales, market and mind share,’’ according to the press release announcing the selection. The campaign also set the stage for Canon in April and May 2004 to introduce the next generation of the line: the CP-220 and CP-330. Among the enhancements was adding the ability to print on four-by-eight-inch paper, which allowed users to create and print their own greeting cards. The upgraded printers were also able to print sequences from movie clips as thumbnail images on a four-by-six-inch card.