When Sony entered the dSLR field, Minolta A-Mount users were encouraged. Sony had the marketing resources and promotional budget to promote their camera hardware well beyond anything Minolta could attempt. Minolta had great cameras and lenses, but their advertising budget was crippled after losing the expensive Honeywell patent lawsuit. With Sony at the reigns, Minolta enthusiasts could expect the camera line to expand exponentially. At least that was the expectation.
Sony marketing fairly quiet about the A100
Sony’s marketing of the Alpha line has been rather luke warm at best. Even their ads in photo magazines has been low-key, just a small camera image and the slogan “Like no Other.” Very little copy explaining why the camera was like no other — or why someone should invest n a new Alpha. It seemed like the general press was generating more buzz about the A100 than Sony was.
All that may be about to change. Maybe the impending release of the future Sony dSLRS has something to do with it. Maybe Sony’s strategy was to get a foothold in the dSLR market but not actively promote the line until they has a solid, multi-tier product line to offer.
Two things indicate that Sony maybe ready to start promoting the Alpha line more aggressively.
Sony announces Alpha test-drive program in the USA
The first is a new Alpha Test-Drive promotion in the US. According to this story in picturebusinessmag.com Sony has started a program to let people actually test an A100 at various sporting events and tournaments in the US. There will be a manned informational kiosk and visitors will be able to leave their driver’s license and borrow an A100 to shoot the event. Then they can return to the kiosk and print their images.
According to PBM, Sony is “organizing and sponsoring a 15-week tour aimed at arming parents of young athletes with a camera that, as Sony explains, can capture pictures at lightning speed.”
The story goes on to say that Sony “will offer this unique experience at youth sports games in Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.”
I think that’s great. This promotion could create a real impact, since Sony is actually getting their camera into potential users hands. When those people visit a big-box electronics store, they will be less inclined to allow sales people to steer them into another camera. They’ve actually shot with an A100, they know how it feels and how it operates. Even if they eventually buy another brand, they will at least consider the A100. That is excellent marketing strategy.
More free online photography resources from Sony
The second indicator of Sony’s interest in promoting the Alpha line is a new section of the Sony UK website. The new Take your photography to the Next Level flash presentation is a interesting multimedia learning experience. OK, I’m not convinced that the concept of “aperture” qualifies as an advanced topic. So what? The initial release is obviously slanted toward beginners. It’s still a step in the right direction. It could easily be expanded to include more advanced topics, and could help the Alpha get some recognition and respect. In the dSLR market, recognition and respect translate directly to sales.
If you’ve been paying attention, you probably noticed something a trifle odd about these promotions. Both of them are targeting new dSLR users — photographers upgrading from point and shoot cameras or people new to photography in general. Yet we are collectively waiting for Sony to announce their next new dSLR, which almost everyone expects to either be an advanced or pro level dSLR.
Who is Sony aiming for with these promotions?
Thats great, and serious Sony A-mount users are eagerly awaiting the new Alpha SLRs. But neither of the above promotions are aimed at advanced amateur or pro level photographers. Instead, they are targeting the first time dSLR buyers. There is nothing wrong with that, actually I applaud it. But what camera is Sony expecting to sell to these intro level photographers? Sony hasn’t said anything about the price of the new SLRs, but if the rumored specs are even half right, it is doubtful that Sony could offer these cameras at any where near the price of starter-SLRs offered by other manufacturers. That means either Sony will keep the A100 as it’s starter model or they have a true low-end dSLR planned in addition to the two semi-announced cameras we already know about. I speculated about this over a year ago in a post entitled “What if the A100 is Sony’s low-end dSLR?”
Sony can’t expect the new advanced models to compete against the basic, no-frills starter models from Nikon and Pentax. They need their own starter SLR. Will it be the A100, perhaps with a price reduction? Or will they roll out something brand new to sell to those soccer moms and dads?