Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 16, 2013

Q&A: Canon's Vincent Cheung on why smartphones cannot replace compact cameras

Vincent Cheung (pictured), general manager and senior director of consumer imaging & information group at Canon Hong Kong, tells Campaign Asia-Pacific how each and every marketing move he makes is an educated decision.

Cheung at the 5th Canon PhotoMarathon event
Cheung at the 5th Canon PhotoMarathon event

What statistics can you reveal about the specifics of Hong Kong's digital camera market?

Hong Kong is a mature market for digital cameras with high penetration rates and replacement cycles. The saturation point hit during 2008. According to our conservative estimates, compact cameras are replaced every two years on average; and around seven-tenths of local households now own digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. In terms of sales volume, DSLRs have been outselling digital compacts for the past three to four years. 60 per cent of our total sales are from DSLRs.

Canon DSLRs are the market leaders in Hong Kong with a market share of 55 per cent, according to GfK. There are a lot more players in the compact camera category, though we still hold a share of more than 20 per cent. DSLRs are also more popular in Hong Kong compared to other parts of Asia, and this has to do with the photographic culture and emphasis on status in the city.

Camera-equipped smartphones versus these single-function devices that are compact cameras... how do you deal with this from the marketing POV?

We often get asked if sales of our compact cameras are affected by the rising popularity of smartphones. The answer is yes, especially for the super-slim type of compact cameras that seem no different from a smartphone camera.

However, there are some functions such as zoom, shutter speed, low-light night shots that smartphone cameras cannot replicate, so we have taken to promoting these points of differentation in our compact cameras. The instant-sharing feature of smartphones has also prompted us to push camera models with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities that can help users share photos wirelessly.

Any other differentiators that are of interest?

Not only do compact cameras need differentiated marketing, DSLRs require it too in the face of competition. The Canon EOS 700D, introduced in March 2013, employs a new stepping motor (STM) technology for fast yet silent focusing when shooting videos. DSLRs are designed primarily for taking still shots so their video capabilities are usually compromised.

However, we chose not to market the product based on this technological innovation, but on user benefit, because consumers are more concerned about the relevance of technology to their daily lives. We picked young parents in Hong Kong as a major target group for this product—the unique selling point is how shooting baby movies is babyskin-smooth with the Canon EOS 700D (see print ad visual below).

Picking this particular target group is reflective of our higher-level strategy towards targeted marketing instead of mass communications, which we have deployed since 2006 by expanding our DSLR targets to females. This is one of the ways to tackle a mature market such as Hong Kong. Moreover, our product range is wide enough to have its own niche target group.

Adspend-wise, what will be your strategy next year?

Canon Hong Kong has been spending less than 10 per cent of our marketing budget online in the past. We have increased the online allocation starting this year and going forward, we will be investing approximately up to 15 per cent online. Compared to tradtional media consumption, online habits are consumer-initiated in order to look for information, be it stocks or the weather. So actually technique is key for the placement of online ads, since the push model of advertising doesn't work well anymore.

As for online advertising tactics, we find behavioural targeting, such as those offered by HK's largest infotainment portal Yahoo, highly effective in reaching our target audience. Based on a user's browsing, clicking and searching behaviour both on Yahoo properties and on affiliate sites, Canon's banner ads will be displayed to those interested in imaging within a 15-minute time period—a tactic known as search retargeting.

We used to buy ads—of the full-page 'crazy ad' format—on a popular news portal in Hong Kong, which caused complaints as consumers thought of it as a hindrance to reading the news. Some were further aggravated when they can't find the 'close' button for the 'crazy ad' on older computer monitors. So for online advertising, we're on a learning curve. Other publishers we advertise on include Apple Daily, DCfever and

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