Value

Hello all. With 32 days until the wedding, I’m finding it harder and harder to get time to myself, or time to find my latin books, but at least I’m making an effort. However, yesterday I went on a trip to my first Red Sox game with my soon-to-be husband and I was inspired…

So to make a long story short, while viewing the game we were approached by a woman in a branded “Fanfoto” t-shirt with a very nice camera that offered to take our photo – “with no commitment”. Usually when these kind of photos get taken the people are very obnoxious about it, either forcing you to pose (Boston Aquarium, I’m looking at you) or hassling you as you come into the park (Six Flags, etc.). This lady was nice, and Kil liked the idea, so we posed. She gave us a business card with the fanfoto logo and a picture number so we could get prints if we wanted when we left the park.

Awesome, I thought. We could go online and order prints. That way, the business saved money by cutting out wasteful overhead, and I got to pick what I wanted from the site. What a great, eco-friendly business model!

Then, the guy behind me piped in with a bit of unsettling news. To buy the picture digitally from their site, it was $60.

It felt like someone had ripped the needle off the record. Where was the value in that? Where did *they*, as a company, place the value? As my lawyer brain started spinning, I went back to watching the game. The sum of it was simple, this was another company who didn’t understand where their consumers put value – or quite frankly, they were really just trying to milk us for an insane amount of money because we were at Fenway Park watching a Red Sox game, and Obviously We Have Money. (We were in the cheap seats, come on!)

So we went back to watching the game…

And then it happened. The woman reappeared back on the scene with an insane amount of the overhead that I thought they were doing without. Not only did she have a fancy framed picture (which was very nice, mind you), but she also had merchandise, and a four photo print out. All of this for $25. At first I thought she said $45, but she did in fact say $25. Okay, so now I know where your value is. The company wanted to have sales NOW because they feared the retention of customers back to their own computer was little to none. (And if you wanted a picture, you had to *really* want that picture for $60, or have it put into their own branding so you couldn’t make copies for yourself.)

But dear gods, the company’s practice of printing the photos out was so wasteful! I wouldn’t want to buy from them now, simply because they were wasting a hell of a lot of paper (there are about 25,000 seats in fenway) printing photos for people who likely did not want to get them. But beyond that, I don’t think I saw them sell a single one of those packets, which should tell the company something: their value is highly misplaced.

In a culture of people who bring their own high-quality cameras (for free) to a game, the value in having someone take your picture at an event like Fenway, or The Aquarium, or Six flags is lost. In order to restructure your business to maintain profitability, you have to provide extra value – not just for yourself, but for your potential consumers. While the value you place on being able to get an impulse buy from fans by presenting them with their product, that value is lost on the consumer. They’re being made to decide imminently if they want to part with money they’d likely still spend on food or other consumables throughout the game.

As a consumer, I place value on wanting to be able to access that photo online, after the game. If it was my camera that I took with me, then I have my own version of that photo, and I’m not going to buy any at all. However, there is definitely value in someone Else being able to get Their Own copy of a photo without having to wait for me, so having a third party take it and provide access to it can be good.

In addition, I also place value on their somewhat hokey branding / decorating of photos, because I’m silly like that and it was my first time there. Now that I’ve visited their site to confirm the $60 download, I can tell you that Fanfoto works like Cafepress.com, you can order many different types of product, all with the one photo on it, for relatively cheap. This is good because most educated consumers know that the price of making those is not high. But to put an outrageous price tag on just the photo itself, especially when many consumers won’t want the hokey branding, is just unintelligent.

The value for the company is in selling their own versions, and preventing fans from making their own merchandise. But the value for consumers is just having the picture, a picture they can very well take on their own, with the help of a kind stranger that won’t come harass you to buy copies of that picture later in the game.

… *sigh* This very problem is what inspired one of the other academic papers that I posted on this blog when I started. Appropriately placed value is a major key to rebuilding a faltering business model, and the companies that realize this are the ones raking in the cash right now. (Another key is having a green company (or at least one that is at least making an effort to be green), and working under a business model that takes into account that some people will be more likely to buy if they trust the business is being intelligent about not being wasteful.)

Fanfoto aside, the sad thing about most business models working with digital media is that they remain hung up on the idea that consumers want product, and that in order to make that product valuable, you have to also retain it with an iron fist. What I’ve seen, both as a consumer and a lawyer, is that while the business models remain the same, consumers are finding ways to get what they want where they can get value from it. Most of the time, the value now is in not spending the money on the product. When companies can create value that makes these same consumers shell out money, then they’ll have it right.

So the moral of the story is that I really liked the photo, and I would have loved to buy it, but I have at least 10 of the same kind and same quality on my own phone that they’re not getting my money. Or other people’s money, for that matter. Their value is completely misplaced, and my own values have moved beyond their business model. Until the two synch up… It will continue to forever be Camera :1, Business: 0.

Pax,

Photo Genic, Esq.

 

(c) Nicole L. M. Jurkowski 2010

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