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Pictures and the Digital Camera ‘Brandscape’

(by Lucas Roze & Andreas Schiffler, IC-Agency Canada)


In recent years, the art of loading film in a 35mm camera has become an archaic practice. With sophisticated high-tech photographic devices, USB or Firewire cables, heaps of flash cards, and a docking stations, the processing studio of today, for most, is their plug and play laptops. Many of the images end up on the Internet. But with all these pictures floating around, what can we do from a statistical perspective to measure brand interest? This article by L. Roze and A. Schiffler of IC-Agency Canada will shed some color into the greyscale world of online picture publishing with a unique analysis about which brands are creating all the images we find on services such as Google or Flickr.com.

Analysis on Technology

While researching on wikipedia.org, we ran across a neat table beside one of the images listing technical details directly related to the image. What we saw was an automatically generated dump of Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data. One of the many data fields contained within the EXIF meta-data is a text referencing the manufacturer of the camera that took the image. This was spotted by Marketing Specialist Lucas Roze and immediately caught his attention as a valuable resource for marketing analysis. It didn’t take long for ICA Senior Software Architect Andreas Schiffler to create a sophisticated spider retrieval program, engineered to pull thousands of pictures from the Internet for web analytical purposes. Combining the spider with some EXIF text analysis, allowed us to retrieve some interesting meta-data information from thousands of pictures and understand their origin. By distributing image sources over a long period of time (Flickr) or many independent keywords (Google), statistical accuracy is maintained in the resulting data set. The data collected in this manner can then be analyzed by what type of brand and model was used, the date and time it was taken, and many other interesting specifications directly related to the reference of the device that took the image or the source of the image file.


Brand Usage

Our unbiased survey spider ran over several days and thousands of images were downloaded and analyzed. Of the images retrieved, over 2000 pictures had usable EXIF meta-data. Using keyword analysis and binning, we were able to establish the top camera brands that are currently in use for Internet publishing.

Displayed on the graph above, we see that Canon (40%) is the most popular brand by a long shot. Nikon (20%) and Sony (12%) take comfortable second and third places. Olympus (8%) is still widely used. The rest of the brands are distributed through the remaining 1/5th of the usage. A definite usage looser seems to be big-name Kodak (3%).

We assume online image-posting behaviour by Internet savvy individuals is similar across brands and does not create a bias towards one or the other brand.

Buying Intentions

After establishing the use of digital camera brands, the next step is to compare it to user intentions. Shown in Figure 1.2 are the top 14 brands by intention as compiled from a chart published by Digital Photography Reviews (DPR, January 2005). The DPR table listed purchasing intentions by brand based on site-click measurements.

As we can see, brands have a clear winner by purchasing intentions with Canon (28.5%) models, which attract more clicks than its two nearest competitors Nikon (13.9%) and Sony (11.5%) combined. The following 7 competitors lead by Olympus (8.6%), Panasonic (7.2%), and Fuji (7.0%) focus most of the remaining interest, leaving a few percent for the smaller brands in this industry.


Canon and Nikon are the only two that demonstrate higher usage of the camera, compared to the online interest of users. As such they are the established leaders in the field and simply indicates that many people own the camera, but few are interested in upgrading or making a new purchase. The middle field with Sony, Olympus and Fujitsu seems to be bang-on in correlation with the usage and interest. Kodak, however, and brands on the other end of the graph (Pentax and Panasonic) lies the most interesting component of our comparison. Panasonic, while experiencing a very low usage percentage (1%), shows an interests in the camera brand that is 7 times higher (7.20%). This means that people are very interested in the Panasonic name brand, but are not making the purchase. A similar but less pronounced (50% lower) “gap” between usage and interest can be observed with Pentax. Even Kodak seems to still ride some a smaller brand recognition wave, but cannot translate it into actual use.

How can this gap be explained? While there could be a technical answer - Panasonic might hide more meta-data in its EXIF images – we don’t feel that this is the case, as it would go against common technology practises and EXIF standards. Thus, especially Panasonic, but also Pentax and Kodak, should re-visit their marketing strategies.


The fairly recent life of the digital camera era seems to be one full of marketing potential. With the meta-data stored in the pictures, it’s a marketers dream. However, there are some road blocks like the use of Photoshop, screenshots, and other editing software that erases the data. Furthermore, it is hard to determine the brands that do not keep the data or stores it under different contexts, and is even harder to pin point the specific models.

A good example is Kodak. After sitting pretty in the driver seat of the paper processing era for many years, the big cheese has yet to excel in the production and marketing of their products compared to its direct competition. Furthermore, with Kodak’s higher prices, this plays a trivial role in the downward effect that we see.

The correlation between the interest and usage by brand allows us to clearly compare apples with apples (the camera brands) and yields some very interesting results. The graphs are a measuring device to compare intentions with demand, something impossible to measure in the past with the film stock models.

Using key performance indicators with this information could prove vital in the hands of digital camera marketing departments that want to establish a competitive advantage over the competition. Trends might be spotted, and the secondary industries such as digital-image processing and tourism services could use this information to optimally place valuable advertising space within their businesses.

Currently, digital cameras are relatively cheap to produce and are being mounted on everything from cell phones to Barbie dolls. The trend will continue and the digital revolution in the camera world is not about to slowdown any time soon. Furthermore, with the Internet simplifying picture exchange with sites such as flikr.com, photo.net, and picasa from Google to name a few, online publication will only get more common and more accessible. These factors combined, presented in this analysis, prove to be a very valuable tool now, and in the future.

By IC-Academy | June 20, 2006 | IC-Agency Events

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