Feature Article - May/June 2013

Sharing the Best Moments

Trends in Digital Camera Incentives

By Emily Tipping

A solid majority—some 85 percent, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project—of American adults now own cell phones, and while you'll find the occasional grownup who prefers to do without, for the most part, this technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives. And as the use of these devices has grown, the technology has become more complex, such that a cell phone isn't just a phone anymore. It's a personal computer. It's a GPS. It's a digital book. And it's a camera.

You'd think that as adoption of cell phones—and especially smartphones—has taken off, and as the features have grown more complex, that people would give up other electronics, including cameras. But thanks to savvy manufacturers who are constantly one step ahead of what people want, this is not the case. Instead of letting the market for smartphones take over their sales, digital camera manufacturers have adopted a wide range of innovations to add functionality to cameras with which smartphones simply cannot compete. This includes the expected features that ensure cameras continue to be better at handling images than phones, from powerful zooms and fast shutter speeds, to surprising features that enable cameras to do some of the things that smartphones can do, such as wireless connectivity and sharing. And while the point-and-shoots of yesteryear may have been taken out of the picture by new smartphones that can do the same job and more, the price points on cameras with greater functionality have become more competitive.

All of this means that, far from being made obsolete, digital cameras are more important to consumers than ever. As they become more and more comfortable with being photographers, using their phones to snap off pictures or take video everywhere they go, people discover a love for photography. And that love ensures they're eventually going to want something that takes a better quality photo, enabling them to preserve and share their most precious moments.

Everyone is a photographer now, said K. Scott Crawford, OEM and special markets manager with Nikon Inc. He added, "Photography is a magical process because it preserves that moment of time. The image we see in our mind's eye can be relived again and again."

The ability to preserve these moments and relive them is one reason why digital cameras continue to be one of the most effective incentive awards going.

"People will always have this innate human desire to capture experiences as a frozen moment in time so they can relive them in the future," said Carey Berg, vice president, Special Markets, Vivitar Sakar. "It goes back as far as cave drawings and the earliest portraits. With cameras, you are selling experiences and memories—not just a piece of hardware. I think the romance of capturing memories plays directly into the rewards business."

Everybody Wants One

With the constant advances in technology, the continual updating and adding of features, the digital camera of today is not the same as the digital camera of even just two years ago. That, combined with their almost universal appeal, ensures digital cameras will be an effective motivational tool, incentive or reward for your audience.

Many of the current trends and technological upgrades in digital cameras have been driven by trends in smartphones.

"Everybody can make room for one more camera," said Shelly Colla, premium incentive group sales manager, Sony Electronics. "Everybody either wants the latest and greatest technology, or they have someone that can make use of it. It's universal. Men, women—no matter the age—it's a great all-around gift." She added that within the electronics arena of the incentive market, even though TVs and iPods and their accessories are highly popular, "…at the end of the day, cameras are the biggest portion of redemptions."

"They appeal to all generations," Crawford said, "so you can have young people who have not started families yet, but are still busy sharing images, and the new wi-fi features will appeal to them. Then when they start their families, it's important, because the kids are always growing, and you want to preserve those memories. Quality of images becomes very important when you're capturing the first walk, the first birthday parties. And then all the way to the other end of the spectrum, retirees have more money, time and freedom, and are vacationing and pursuing artistic interests. They want to take more elegant photographs, not just to communicate the place, but to add artistic elements. So from children through retirees, imaging plays an important role in our lives, and more so than it ever has before."

Kim Carrette, sales manager, Special Account Sales, Canon U.S.A. Inc., agreed. "They capture the interest of all audiences," she said of digital cameras' appeal. "They are not specific to any one demographic, blue-collar or white-collar, young or old, man or woman. No matter what stage of life's journey you're in, it's very likely that you will want a digital camera for the most important moments."

Heather Chevreau, special accounts manager with Fujifilm North America also emphasized the appeal of digital cameras across demographic boundaries. She added that, "also, the technologies keep getting better, so even if you own a digital camera, you might be ready to upgrade."