I wrote about disrupting procurement last month, specifically in terms of MRO spend. I wanted to continue that discussion, but this time in the Marketing space.

As a refresher from last month, I have a bone to pick with the tried and true strategic sourcing toolbox we’ve all grown reliant on. Going to market with an RFP to aid supplier consolidation and direct negotiations is one example. The longer we rely on that toolbox, the smaller and more incremental our cost savings will become year after year. Thinking differently and creating disruptive change is what we need moving forward.

Disrupting Product Photography 

First, let’s outline some challenges organizations face.

Specialization Limits Options

Many products require highly specialized skills to produce impactful images. Jewelry, with highly reflective metals and stones, makes for a lighting challenge. Not every photographer can play with this light in just the right way. A limited number of experts creates a risk:

  • Fewer suppliers means a wider net. This increases time tables and costs as we factor in product shipments and makes in-person relationships difficult to maintain.
  • Negotiation leverage is on the supplier’s side. Scarce skills are expensive skills. Expect such photographers to command pricing and SLA negotiation leverage to your disadvantage.

Suppliers May Be Small

Unless you’re working with a big agency that staffs in-house photographers (or if you’re in the process of decoupling your marketing services), you may be working with some small studios. This can cause a few headaches:

  • Volume shifts can be a pain. Fluctuations in volume are hard to handle when you have only one or two photographers. Such small shops may not be able to handle large volume increases from you or another customer… Either occurring could spell trouble.
  • Lack of workflow support. There are plenty of ancillary services that support the photography workflow. Your relationship will sink or swim depending on customer service, inventory management, IT-based services for online portal management, and many other factors. Small studios may have an ineffective workflow if they don’t have resources to help here.

Traditional Solutions

Traditional solutions to the challenges above start with a specification review. Depending on how shots are used (consider hi-res magazine versus website images), lower specs could produce big savings without sacrificing image quality. Better SOP can be put in place: setting up process that minimizes expensive reshoots or post-shoot product changes could be very impactful.

Next, going to market will help in a couple ways. Including more studios in an RFP increases our chance of finding the right skillset we need. More competitors also moves negotiation leverage back to us, and helps to establish backup studios in the event of volume spikes.

Sounds good. But are we really solving our problems?

Disruptive Solutions

Everything we discussed boils down to a temporary solution. Errant stakeholders will eventually ignore SOP, and any market knowledge gained from an RFP will get dated as the market shifts. We’ll have to keep reinforcing SOP and keep going back to market every so often to keep up. Meanwhile, we’re still at the mercy of logistical problems and supplier workflow shortcomings.

Longer-term solutions could involve avoiding these challenges. Disrupting product photography means considering digital rendering as a replacement. Renderings are computer generated images with a few key benefits:

  • Digital renderings mean no more reshoot costs – renderings can be saved and edited without the traditional setup/breakdown costs of a photography set.
  • Logistics issues disappear since we’re working all digitally – no physical product.
  • Photography costs may go up or down depending on the market. However, as with all technologies, rendering costs are only getting more competitive thanks to technological advances.
  • Renderings go where photographs simply can’t. Renderings give customers the ability to move around and through tiny products to see every detail, and allow those intricate parts to be seen in an exploded view, highlighting them individually before coming back together again. Rendering also gives us entrée to Augmented Reality applications for more interactive customer experiences.

Should You Consider Rendering?

Is now the right time for you to cut ties with photography in favor of rendering? The answer depends on how challenging the photography process is for your organization and how you end up using product imagery in marketing campaigns. That said, if you haven’t explored rendering yet, it may be worth investigating.

Let’s end on a higher-level note. Forget the benefits or detriments to photography or rendering for a moment: Many teams have never considered cutting out photography services to begin with. We need to make sure our eyes open to new possibilities, or else we’d never consider a move like this at all. Put another way, don’t be so focused on diving into the traditional toolbox that novel (and potentially game changing) alternatives go by the wayside.

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Brian Seipel

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