Feature Article - May/June 2014

Sparking Creativity

Inspiring Performance With Camera Incentives

By Emily Tipping

When I was growing up, I had the photographer dad. When all the extended family got together, he was the guy getting everyone set up on the front porch for a photo shoot. He'd set up his camera, set the timer and jump into the shot at the last second. And that wasn't all, of course. He'd take pictures of us playing in the yard, getting ready for a dance recital, splashing in the wading pool, stopping along a hike (half of us grimacing, half smiling). Then he'd go out on his own and take pictures of the local scenery—barns, fields, country roads. You name it.

Once or twice a year, we'd make popcorn and get set up in the family room with a folding screen and a projector and view slides of all the photos he'd taken. It was great fun.

Back then, photographer-dads weren't such a common sight. But that's all changed, now. Oh, my dad's still a photographer. But now everyone else is, too.

Everyone's a Photographer

With the rise of the mobile phone and social media, more and more people are taking pictures and sharing them—sometimes instantly—with friends, family and the world. A recent study from the Consumer Electronics Association showed that in the United States, more households now own smartphones (64 percent), surpassing basic cell phones (owned by 51 percent) for the first time. As more and more people use this technology's bells and whistles—including snapping quick photos and videos—the companies that manufacture and market digital cameras have had to adjust both their product and their messaging to give consumers new reasons to upgrade their photo-shooting abilities.

"The last year has seen continued and significant change," said K. Scott Crawford, OEM & Special Markets Manager for Nikon Inc. "The smartphone has been impactful. There are more people engaged in the hobby, sharing their lives through still images and video.

"Back in the old days, it was predominantly a male activity, a chosen hobby," he explained. "A lot of photos then were taken by hobbyists. Today, everyone has found that they enjoy that hobby, and they use it to share daily events and important events in their lives."

Because of the emergence of smartphones with imaging capabilities, the more basic cameras are seeing less demand, Crawford reported. "Even if it will take better photos, the perception is that the DSLR is the upgrade over a smartphone."

But, at the same time, because smartphones have enabled so many people, young and old, men and women, to develop an interest in taking photos—and, more importantly, taking better photos—digital camera makers have seized the opportunity to reach out to a broader market than has ever existed before.

This is why digital cameras make up such a large portion of the incentive merchandise market. Anyone can shoot photos with their camera, but a name-brand digital camera provides something to reach for.

Digital cameras work great for incentive programs because they're genderless and ageless, reported Heather Chevreau, Special Accounts Manager, Fujifilm North America. "They appeal to both men and women, including all age ranges," she said. "Everyone has or will have special occasions they will want to capture, and not want to capture them on their iPhones."

As employees, sales reps and partners improve their performance for your company, you can provide them the chance to improve their photo-taking skills by offering products that do a much better job than a simple camera phone.