In September of this year, photojournalist Vincent Laforet went to the Canon headquarters for a meeting with executive David Sparer. Laforet, who sometimes works for Canon as an “Explorer of Light” (a photographer who works to improve camera performance), couldn’t have had better timing. As he was heading to his meeting, the first prototype of the Canon 5D MKII to hit the US were arriving at the Canon offices. The 5D MKII, which shoots high definition 1080p video at 30fps and 21 megapixel stills, is a huge leap in camera technology, and Laforet wanted to be the first to get his hands on it. Canon agreed to let him use the camera for the weekend to shoot a video and stills, but told him that it would be an entirely independent project (meaning that Laforet would have to fund it himself), and if they liked what he produced, they would consider putting up his footage on the website. The film did make it onto the website, and gave camera enthusiasts a chance to see the amazing picture quality on Canon’s new model. Below is the “making of” video.
Now, this was smart on Canon’s part for a number of reasons. First off, Canon didn’t have to pay a dime for this viral campaign. Laforet funded the whole project, knowing that if the film made it onto Canon’s website, it would bring him more than the budget’s worth in exposure. In addition, Laforet blogged excessively about the experience and the camera, and created a huge amount of buzz on the camera (he currently has over 1000 comments on his 5D MKII related posts). Camera bloggers who have seen the video have spread the word, and the industry is abuzz in anticipation of the camera’s release.
Also, Canon tapped in to a underutilized marketing strategy – show customers your product, don’t just tell them about it. The video was shot entirely with the 5D MKII, and wasn’t doctored or altered in any way. So, by releasing the video online, they are giving potential customers a tangible example of what they can expect when they buy the camera.
Other companies should take notice. Canon created a great deal of buzz and anticipation for their new product without spending a dollar or, really, doing all that much – all they had to do was post Laforet’s video. They also highered their credibility within the internet community by utilizing viral strategies. This is surely going to end with higher sales for the 5DMKII. And what company wouldn’t want that?