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Nikon recently became the latest company to include bloggers in its promotional efforts when it launched its 'Picture This' blogger-outreach program. The program involved sending a Nikon D80 digital camera to 50 "online personalities," including myself. We are allowed to use the "loaner" cameras for six months.

At the end of the six month period, we can either return the camera to Nikon, re-up for another 6-months, or buy the camera at an editorial discount. Nikon's hope is obviously that we will take a lot of pictures with the D80s and post them and blog about the camera.
Using bloggers in such outreach/ambassador programs is still a relatively new area of marketing. Given this, I wanted to focus my attention for the next 6 months not so much on the camera itself, but on the program that Nikon and its agency, the MWW Group, has crafted.
One thing I really like about the "Picture This" program is that those of us that receive a D80 on loan are under zero obligation to blog/write/talk about the camera or the pictures we take with it. Nikon's only request is that IF we do talk about the camera to anyone, that we disclose that we have received the D80 on loan from Nikon as part of the "Picture This" program. Smart move on their part, and this clinched my agreeing to be involved.
But what I find fascinating are the vibrant and passionate discussions that have sprung up on blogs debating the merits of this, and other similar blogger-outreach programs. I think these discussions are invaluable in helping each of us shape our own views on such programs, and of course these wonderful thoughts are pure gold to Nikon and any other company that's considering a similar effort.
And this lends itself to another point; Nikon was smart enough to turn this promotion over to an agency that employs some fairly well-known bloggers in Chris Thilk and Tom Biro. This makes great sense because Nikon is crafting a promotion aimed at bloggers, and in affect letting bloggers handle it. Very smart move.
Having said all that, I don't think the promotion is perfect. One area I question is why there's no blog being written for the bloggers involved? Would be a great way to not only highlight pictures we have taken with the D80s (with links to the pictures and our blogs), but could also be a great way to address some of the features of the D80, which would help us take better pictures. To be fair to Nikon and MWW, maybe they have something along these lines in mind already.
All-in-all, I think this effort is a solid example of engaging bloggers in their space on their terms. But again, the real value in such a program comes from us starting a conversation to discuss such plans, so that we all can benefit. What do you like about such programs? What do you dislike? If Nikon offered you a D80 under the above terms, would you participate? Are you ok with such plans, or do they cross the line in your mind?
Better yet, if you were working with a company to create a similar blogging-outreach effort, how would your plan differ from Nikon's? Would it be the same?

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image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier