Over the last year, consumers chose to buy two inexpensive and simple products, the Wii and the Flip, over competing gadgets bristling with more features.
In 2009, I purchased a Flip HD camcorder. Around the same time, Cisco purchased Flip, the company, for about $600 million. It was never clear precisely what Cisco was up to, but with YouTube being a big deal, some form of Internet connectivity seemed to top the list of the possible "synergies." It took Cisco just a year to change its mind, announcing in April of this year that it would shut Flip down.
Flip, the Cisco-owned maker of pocket-sized camcorders, wants to go mass, and it's hoping its first, multimillion-dollar ad campaign, launched today, will establish it as a lifestyle brand. For a company that has previously eschewed big media buys in favor of grassroots marketing, it's a new strategy. But there's a lot at stake for the player that invented the sub-category of dummy-proof, affordable camcorders priced around or below the $200 range. For starters, it needs to quickly capitalize on the market's growth before it tapers off, thanks in part to competition from video-camera-enabled smartphones.
Not content with bringing socialism to its boardroom, Flip cams to the family room, and comedic product placements to the nation's TV screens, Cisco has just unveiled a set of Web-based communication products that could put the San Jose company into direct competition with both Google and Microsoft. Its entry into two new markets--hosted email and enterprise social software--is, says Cisco, part of a push to make business more people-centric than document-centric. This move signals a major shift for a company that is best known as the Internet's plumber (the Internet's backbone if you prefer). Along with a cloud-based mail system, WebEx Mail, the company is introducing a social video system, called Cisco Show and Share. According to the PR blurb, it "helps organizations create and manage highly secure video communities to share ideas and expertise, optimize global video collaboration, and personalize the connection between customers, employees and students with user-generated content." Also on its way is the Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform, a cross between a corporate directory with social networking capabilities.
Apple's launch this week of its fifth-generation iPod nano, the first iPod to include a video camera, drew heavy chatter from bloggers and tech nerds alike for its affordable attack on the Flip camera. But the unlikeliest benefactor of the new nano? The radio industry, via Apple's first FM tuner, compatible with new 5G nanos.
In 2001, Jonathan Kaplan and Ariel Braunstein noticed a quirk in the camera market. All the growth was in expensive digital cameras, but the best-selling units by far were still cheap, disposable film models. That year, a whopping 181 million disposables were sold in the US, compared with around 7 million digital cameras. Spotting an opportunity, Kaplan and Braunstein formed a company called Pure Digital Technologies and set out to see if they could mix the rich chocolate of digital imaging with the mass-market peanut butter of throwaway point-and-shoots. They called their brainchild the Single Use Digital Camera and cobranded it with retailers, mostly pharmacies like CVS.
How do you get your boss to approve something, the customer service people to understand the pain a system is causing or the folks in engineering to see things your way? Powerpoint was invented for this precise function, and we all know what's become of that. Here's a new way that's extraordinarily effective: Make a video.
On Peter Day’s always-informative business show on the BBC, Cisco’s John Chambers said earlier this month that a downturn is a chance to go into new lines of business. Buying the maker of the consumer hit video camera Flip is certainly is that. I think it could be genius. It’s about new ways to communicate easily, new networks. The Flip has many surprising uses.