Canon Gets it Wrong With the EOS M

(commentary)

"Thank you for your inquiry regarding the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens. Unfortunately, this specific lens will not be sold or serviced by Canon USA."

That's the response in the Canon support forum to shooters in the US, where mirrorless camera sales are low (compared to Asia, for example). But it simply opens up the chicken-and-egg debate that the camera companies continually seem to not understand. And before people question the authenticity of that forum response, I'll just point out that I've gotten similar feedback from Canon dealers: they can't order the product in the US. 

All of which makes me wonder why the EOS M was even sold in the US. If I were a dealer, I'd demand that Canon take back any inventory of the product I had obtained, because effectively Canon is saying "we're selling a 'system camera' that you can't actually make into a system." Game over: opponent shot itself in the chest instead of the foot like the others. 

I'll repeat something I've written many times: marketing is about perception. To sell a user something, they have to perceive the value in purchasing it. Canon's actions here reduced the perceived value of an EOS M system almost to zero (the only lens other than the kit lenses to be offered isn't available). 

Worse still, Canon's actions seem to indicate that they don't think that the EOS M has any opportunity of taking sales from their DSLRs. Meanwhile, m4/3 bodies and NEX bodies do just that, though at modest levels here in the US. Canon's actions further suggest that they now consider the EOS M a "regional" option, which in today's global world has less actual value than a "global" option. (Why? Because people don't stay put. Note the "not serviced in US" aspect of their statement. What happens when you move to the US from Canada? Or get reassigned from overseas by your company to the US? Granted, there won't be large numbers of people that get caught by that—especially since Canon isn't selling many EOS M's in the first place ;~)—but this policy represents just another of those "frictions" I talk about. Every friction you add to the user's mind means it gets tougher to sell them in the first place. This is one of the biggest frictions I've seen a camera company perpetuate though: the EOS M isn't really a system camera, even though it may look like one.

Meanwhile, we have rumors of an EOS M II appearing soon. So, Canon, did you really want to first attract negative publicity about EOS M just prior to launching a new version? How is that useful to the goal of selling a lot of new cameras? Here in the US, any EOS M II announcement will likely be just ignored now. What's to stop a repeat of Canon's behavior? I'll therefore make a prediction: Canon won't announce the EOS M II in the US. It will be a regional camera.

I wrote a couple of years ago on bythom.com that I thought that Canon's management was confused and that their product offerings were turning into more a shotgun approach without a clear, cohesive strategy. The "launch the EOS M in the US, then deeply discount it and not extend the system" thing that's been going on seems to be just another aspect of that "no clear direction." 

Most of the Japanese companies got into digital cameras, and then into specific types of digital cameras, because they believed the "high tide floats all boats" theory. Basically, rapidly growing sales mean that all you have to do is show up with a product and you'll sell some. The problem is that the tide is now going out in all digital camera categories, not coming in. "Low tides strand a lot of boats." Consider the EOS M stranded. For Canon to save it—at least here in the United States—would take a massively better product with far better marketing and support than Canon has shown they can do.    


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