Written by Ed Monahan of Eastman Kodak
It’s no secret. Printing has substantially declined in recent years. With a glut of devices that take pictures – digital cameras, smart phones, iTouch and handheld video devices – consumers capture more images than ever before, while at the same time, print fewer. Rather than focus strictly on the numbers of prints being made (or in this case, not made), I try to understand the reasons behind the numbers – why do consumers increasingly opt out of printed images and more importantly, how do we bring them back?
In recent years, everyone, from high-end professional labs to online consumer services, has introduced some kind of photo book offering, Kodak included. Yet, with all of these offerings, we have yet to see movement toward widespread adoption, and purchase, of these premiums.
So first, let’s take a step back and think about what we do know. We know that everyone takes pictures; everyone shares pictures; everyone loves pictures. But the outstanding question is: who wants the printed pictures? And do they even know they want the printed pictures? And if not, how do we show them they do? Because the print has some advantages over digital – no need for a power source or time to boot up, no app or machine needed for viewing, and no risk of technology obsolescence in the future!
Remember that ‘print behavior’ varies by age and generation, and always has. Teenagers don’t print like moms do – that’s nothing new. But as consumers grow past their teen years, into marriage and children, printing begins, often following habits of their parents before them.
But the current generations, the ones with the most purchasing power, Gen Y and Gen Z, have completely disrupted that traditional pattern. These groups are the tastemakers or “curators,” and marketing to them requires an approach that embraces digital, yet leaves open the possibility for printing.
The concept of consumers as curators started with Gen Y, as one component of its impact on how it engaged with brands. Gen Y grew up with a very different visual literacy and a very different understanding of what technology enables than the generation before it. The Gen Y world is a world of “device and connections,” and constant/continuous access to content, anytime, anywhere. There are no physical bounds or geographic limitations. Gen Y has always texted instead of talked, watched YouTube over TV, bought songs and not albums, and socialized in cyber space.
Gen Z is even more amped, even more device-centric. If Gen Y uses devices to enhance life, Gen Z uses devices to define their lives. Gen Z thirsts for speed, constant connection, and demands instant gratification. It has a purchasing power, is addicted to social networks, and its lifeblood is the phone. Gen Z influences purchases through pester power and their own income. Online purchases have driven Gen Z to higher consumption levels. Utility drives purchasing behavior and consumption.
So, how do you drive consumption with Gen Y and Z? First, communicate authentically and directly. Respect the power of these groups. Deliver utility, emotion, and experience. Help them use images in more innovative and compelling ways. Add context to their content and help it overcome the friction of too many images in too many places, never the right one at the right time in the right place. And give them tools to curate their images into collections that rock. Enhance their collections, and when you can, help them publish hard copies in the way this group wants. This group craves individuality. They recognize their need for personal publishing. Help them run with it.
Can this work? It did for music and movies and it will for memories. Remember, it’s never been about the media, but rather what media enables, which is content! Let’s provide offerings that are creative, innovative, and support the new generations’ need for personalization and customization. Our new customers are the disruptive generation. Let’s embrace disruption.
About Ed Monahan
Ed Monahan is currently Strategic Planning Director, Professional and Consumer Markets at Eastman Kodak. His specialities are Strategic Partnerships, Market Characterization and Needs Analysis, Trend Analysis, Forecasting and Developing Market Requirements, Public speaking/trade presentations as industry expert on market dynamics and future forecasts.