Fujifilm – a personal brand favorite of mine – recently launched a new product line of cameras seen as Sony copy cats. Is that a good or a bad thing? While I realize not all of my readers are digital camera photography enthusiasts, the lessons in this article are applicable to any industry.
In his brilliant book Innovating Out of Crisis: How Fujifilm Survived (and Thrived) As Its Core Business Was Vanishing, Shigetaka Komori, the CEO who brought Fujifilm back from the brink explains how he engineered the transformative organizational innovation and product diversification of Fujifilm. It really is an amazing story.
The key principle during this process of organizational engineering was that Fujifilm remained true to its roots. The mission of Fujifilm remained that of Preserving and Sustaining the Culture of Photography.
This result of this mission can be found in the design of the Digital Imaging products of Fujifilm. Fujifilm understood there are a couple of ingredients to a valuable imaging brand: lens, sensor, processor *and* connecting to the heritage of photography.
In the case of Fujifilm, this translated itself to the creation of cameras with a distinct vintage look, with the same dials and buttons and the original Fujifilm. And very important, simulations of original Fujifilm analog films are built-in the camera.
The result: a huge fanbase of Fujifilm camera enthusiasts combined with a distinct positioning. Fujifilm Is the only “film” brand that made -without any doubt- the transition to digital!
So far… so good!
But something happens to every focused brand: the need to expand or extend. In the case of Fujifilm, they decided to copycat their biggest competitor: Sony.
And with it, Fujifilm launches a new “S” product line, the first product being the S10. Gone is the retro look, gone are the dedicated buttons, gone is that vintage photography feeling Fuji brand advocates love so much.
The Fujifilm site “Fujirumors” calls it exactly what it is The Vintage Departure. And that is not a good thing.
Of course, Fujifilm will attract some new buyers, but while doing so it loses in being the distinct photography brand. In other words, all the carefully build up brand equity will get a hit.
And, perhaps easy to forget, but if buyers would have wanted a Sony, they would have purchased a Sony to start with. Nobody likes to have the copy, it gives the impression you would not be able to get the real thing.
The same would be for Sony. If Sony would make cameras looking like Fujifilm it might attract of course some people, but those who really go for the Fuji look, feel and operations will come to Fujifilm.
Think about it, do you rather drink Coca-Cola or a “supermarket own brand” version? Do you rather drive a Tesla or the Mercedes-Benz electric car?
My prediction is that the new Fujifilm S line will be one of short term gain and a long term pain. The better move would have been to invest in new and innovative ways to stick to the core and preserve, sustain, and expand the culture of photography.