Canon Moves Beyond Its Image to Story



This year is Canon’s 80th year since the Japanese company’s establishment in manufacturing imaging and optical products.

The company was introduced in Japan in 1937 to provide locally made high-quality cameras at a time when industry was dominated by European players.

Its first 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera named the Hanza Canon, marks the first product under what is today’s globally recognized Canon brand and definitely not the company’s last innovation.

Canon imaging story

The first Canon camera. Source: Wikimedia


The imaging corporation decided early on to diversify its range of products, which is why in the present day, it remains relevant across a range of categories including Office Solutions, Consumer Imaging, Medical Systems, and Industrial Products — servicing both the end-consumer and business segments.

While the company holds 3,665 patents in the US, the Canon brand is still widely associated with its lineup of cameras.

In 2015, Canon owned 54.7% of the world’s market share for DSLRs and 18% market share of the mirrorless market in Japan meaning it’s very likely you’ve probably used a Canon product at least once in your life.


In 2014, the company reported a 27% fall in Q3 profit because of a slump in the global camera market thanks to the rise of the smartphone.

That same year, market researcher IDC predicted that the digital camera market would shrink 29% to 102 million units, compared with 144 million in 2010.

“The changes in the business environment are very severe,” admitted Canon Executive Vice President and CFO, Toshizo Tanaka.

Data from the Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) report in 2016 also showed a dramatic drop in camera sales worldwide from 2010 onwards.

Canon had to come up with better products to entice people to buy their products again.

Canon imaging story

Global sales of cameras peaked in 2010 before decreasing over the next five years. Source: Chart.


How does a company tackle a global mobile obsession? By banking on new products features that a smartphone could never compete with and share a compelling story.

“By nudging people along their photo-storytelling journey, they may see the limitations around smartphones,” said Lee Bonniface, Marketing Director Canon EMEA.

Earlier this year, the company released multiple campaigns emphasizing how its camera features could enhance everyday life, including one called “Live for the story” and “Perfect Moments”.

With a tagline: “Being at the right place at the right time means nothing without the right camera”, the campaigns are meant to remind and encourage both amateur and serious photographers that Canon is the way to go.

Canon marketing strategy

Picture taken by Canon cameras on its “Perfect Moments”campaign.


“We hope that photographers at all levels will feel empowered to capture the everyday, fleeting moments that inspire them and that are made accessible by the exceptional Canon DSLR cameras and lense,” explained Rob Altman, Senior Manager of Marketing Canon USA.

As part of the campaign, the company also created a dedicated landing page offering tips for consumers looking to “Shoot for Greatness” with their cameras. The site serves to educate users through tutorial videos and step-by-step guides detailing the setup of a Canon DSLR camera.

In addition to marketing, the company also introduced three new cameras to its popular and budget friendly Rebel and EOS lines; Rebel T7i, 77D, and M6, aimed at transitioning photographers.


“We know we either had to become a niche business for the photography geeks or we could reposition ourselves into brand millennials connect with,” said Bonniface.

To achieve the latter, Canon has chosen to go the ‘acquisition route’ to enrich its reach in the “imaging ecosystem”.

“We’ve been trying to address the question of how do we grow our business and become more relevant to new audiences,” said Senior Director of Digital Services Canon Europe, Alberto Spinelli.

In 2015, Canon acquired family photo-sharing app Lifecake for its users – typically parents organizing their photos and creating ‘story’ albums.

Canon marketing strategy

Lifecake platform

Following that acquisition, the company also bought another UK startup called Kite, a software company that enables people to take a photo from their smartphone and have it printed on physical products like photo albums, mugs or phone cases.

The company plans to integrate the software into Canon’s existing hardware devices, including its desktop printers and digital cameras.

“The acquisition of Kite really enhances our proposition,” explained Spinelli.

To boost its revenue globally, Canon eyes $10 billion in sales for the Asia market by 2020 as the region shows stronger growth than other parts of the world, including Canon’s current biggest market Japan.

To bring its products closer to the customers in emerging market such as Southeast Asia, the company sells directly to consumer through an official online store in Singapore.

Canon marketing strategy

Canon online store in Singapore


Despite dwindling camera sales over the last few years, the future for Canon and the industry looks pretty bright because photo-taking has not at all slowed down. The latest numbers from CIPA show that the segment has started to straighten out with 7.4% increase in sales during Q1.

Thanks to the newer generation’s addiction to social media sharing and the infamous ‘selfie’, we are the generation labeled as “self-obsessed”. If Canon can create the right tools and digital services to fuel the habit of digitally savvy consumers that want to capture life through picture perfect moments, it can come out on top in a global digital camera market predicted to exceed $2 billion by 2021.