The Not Quite Yellow Program

I noted last week when NikonUSA announced the new Z5 Yellow Program—which is only available via The Nikon Store—that dealers were going to get angry. Today, Nikon announced a new, related program, the Z5 Test Drive, which does work through dealers.

Available at authorized Nikon dealers that agree to participate and have available inventory, basically you walk out of your local store with a Z5 and 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens kit for US$50. At the end of the week, you can apply that fee to the full sale price of the kit and keep it, or return everything to the dealer. 

Meanwhile, as I write this, the NikonUSA main page doesn't promote the Z5 Test Drive, only the Yellow Program, so if I were a dealer I'd still be angry. Moreover, the Yellow Program's FAQ hasn't been updated ("What stores are participating in the Yellow Program?" doesn't point to the One Week Test Drive as an alternative at your local dealer).

This all seems a little disorganized, and also seems to point to NikonUSA trying real hard to move more Z5 inventory—particularly the kit with the 24-50mm lens—without reducing its price. I can tell from book sales that the Z5 isn't moving in the volume Nikon probably expected. But Nikon is also working at cross purposes with themselves: the upcoming Z6 II and Z7 II launch has anyone thinking about buying a full frame Z camera waiting to see what those are and how the lineup will look after their launch. 

Methinks NikonUSA is trying to micromanage a problem in ways that the customer (and dealer) isn't going to respond well to. There are simpler and better approaches that would probably achieve the same thing. For instance, most people (including me) believe that the Z5 will go on sale for the holidays, so just putting a 90-day price guarantee on the Z5 would be useful in getting some off their duff and ordering the product. Had NikonUSA approached me about bundling my book with the Z5 through the end of the year, I might have considered that. There's always the "free" FTZ thing, too. 

What that strikes me is this: NikonUSA sees "the problem" as "we need to get Z5+24-50mm boxes out of our inventory." And if they can get them out of dealers' inventory, the dealer will order more and reduce NikonUSA's inventory. The benefit to the customer NikonUSA is offering is basically "try it risk free." No doubt that will entice a few, but I'm not sure that customers are sitting around worrying about the risk of buying a Z5 (other than what a Z6 II might look like ;~). What's the reason why they should want the camera in the first place? 

I do note that NikonUSA picked up on something I wrote and leads with the "Your full frame mirrorless journey starts here" marketing tag as being first and foremost on the Test Drive page (as opposed to the "Expand your creative playground" slogan they usually use). 

Let me state it unequivocally: the Z5 is the best entry full frame mirrorless camera you can buy, and probably the best entry full frame camera, period. If it's not selling at Nikon's expectations, then the problem is one of two: (1) it's priced too high; or (2) Nikon can't convince people of what I just wrote—as have others—through their marketing. (Also: (3) that people can't get it with the lens they wanted, as the 24-200mm kit is sold out and the 24-70mm kit isn't available here.)

The irony is this: there's nothing else like a Z5 on the market. The Canon RP is a shadow of a camera comparatively. The Sony A7 Mark II might be still available, but that's buying into things that are broken and have been fixed in current products. The Sony A7C is a more expensive oddball, and more likely to appeal to videographers than still photographers (likewise the Sigma fp). Panasonic doesn't really have a true entry product. If Nikon can't sell the excellent Z5, then there's no "entry market", and we all know that not to be true. 

I've been working on an article about one aspect the Japanese camera companies, particularly Nikon, get wrong these days. It has to do with management, and what you're managing to. Nikon is using 20th Century management ideas—and mid-20th century, at that—in an environment that dictates you move faster and different here in the 21st Century. I've seen this problem in US companies, too, and there's a correlation between the age of top management and whether they're using older or newer management thinking.

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