Chapter 9: Products
Nikon & Digital Technology
We have already seen within the text that technology has had a major impact/influence on our societies. You will have experienced that yourself with the development of enhanced computer systems, video games, televisions and MP3s. Of course, this is only the beginning as pervasive technologies are developed life in the 21 st century will be very different to what it is now.
For a significant part of the 20 th century 35mm film stock both for movie and still cameras was dominant. Not any more. The development of digital technology has greatly enabled a wider range of people to take acceptable shots. No longer the need for a light meter to take a photograph in reduced light conditions. Oh yes, this was part of the equipment needed to take a reasonable photograph in say the 1960s. That’s perhaps why many of the photographers of the time were considered real artistes.
Since the 1960s 35mm film stocks have advanced greatly, so too has digital technology. Today you can take photographs using your mobile phone – of course that doesn’t make the mobile phone user a photographer – merely a recorder of events. For the individual concerned that may be more than sufficient.
However, the world is changing where digital products are replacing traditional film cameras. Nikon Corporation of Japan announced in January 2006 that they will cease producing traditional film cameras and focus on the further development of digital cameras. This will result, perhaps like other camera manufacturers, in the end of production of lenses as well as most film camera bodies, interchangeable manual focus lenses and other related accessories.
However, while Nikon and other companies may focus on the more ‘mass-market’ digital format that doesn’t mean that they will totally end 35mm production. Nikon, for example, will continue with the production of its F6 film camera in recognition of ‘Nikon’s commitment to professional photographers’. While digital cameras with 6 million pixels and upward deliver value to the average photographer, professional photographers need that extra special edge. State of the art 35mm cameras using extra sensitive film sock still can only deliver this quality. It will be some time before this segment of the photographic market is subsumed into a purely digital domain.
Product Adaptation (UK)
An Indian entrepreneur, Sake Dean Mahomed, opened the very first curry house restaurant in the UK in the 19th century. The Hindoostane Coffeehouse opened in 1810 in London to serve Indianised food for the Indian aristocracy in London. However, the patrons preferred more authentic food prepared at home and within two years the restaurant had closed.
For years the leading British dish has been fish and chips, however no longer. Today it is the Indian curry that proves to be the most popular food choice. Moreover, the food has been adapted for British tastes. Indeed, ‘Indianised’ dishes have been created for British tastes. For instance:
- In India the word ‘curry’ refers to anything cooked and eaten with rice. In the UK it tends to mean a spicy, sauce-based dish flavoured with curry powder or paste.
- Chicken tikka masala is an Indian-styled dish created in the UK to satisfy British tastes. It has recently been introduced into India and Bangladesh.
- The balti dish is yet another British food creation. It was created in Birmingham during the mid 1970s.
Today Britain has some 10,000 Indian restaurants serving approximately two million curries per week.
The Barbie® Doll mini case within the textbook outlined how there had been ethnic variations since the 1980s. By 2003 Barbie® had been marketed into over 150 countries and had become the world’s best-selling doll.
However, in 2003 a new doll was introduced into the Middle Eastern marketplace to rival Barbie®. The dark-eyed, olive-skinned and thick dark hair Fulla® (named after the sweet smelling flower, jasmine) is dressed in traditional Islamic headscarf (the hijab) and black robe (the abaya), and comes with her own prayer rug. She is increasingly considered as the Arab answer to Barbie®
To complement traditional dress there is also an extensive wardrobe, consisting of jeans, skirts and colourful headscarves, to reflect the modern Middle Eastern woman. However, there is nothing that would be offensive in terms of Arab dress, for example, swimwear. Fulla® in essence is designed in the tradition of Muslim values.
To quote brand manager Fawaz Abidin:
‘You have to create a character that parents and children want to relate to. She’s honest, loving and caring, and she respects her father and mother.’
Since the launch in November 2003, over 1.3 million dolls have been sold in the Middle East retailing for approximately US$16.00 each (although apparently cheaper than Barbie® in parts of the Middle East). This is relatively expensive in some Arab countries such as Syria where the average per capita income is estimated at US$100 per month.
Advertising on Arabic television shows Fulla® saying her prayers at sunrise, baking a cake for her friend Yasmeen® or reading a book at bedtime. An additional friend, Nada® has also been created.
The manufacturers NewBoy Design Studio seek to develop licensing agreements to expend the range of related products, from breakfast cereal to bicycles. Moreover they seek to introduce into the US marketplace where it is estimated that there are over 4.6 million Muslims. Indications suggest that the manufacturers seek to go global with the product and accessories.
However, the introduction of the doll is not without either current or potential controversy:
- There are concerns amongst some observers that this will polarise thinking between the Middle East and the West, namely the US and parts of Europe. In France, Muslin head-dress has been banned in schools, much of the rioting that took place around Paris in late 2005 was in areas where the majority of people are of Islamic origin. Some commentators in France, for example, fear that the introduction of such an ‘ethnic’ doll could inflame political tensions.
- Some sources state that the manufacturer is Syrian based while others state that it is Emirates based. As one new source stated Syria is (as of January 2006) still on the US State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. If that is the case then it is unlikely that the doll will be allowed an import license into the US. Of course, the place of manufacture can be relocated. However, that does not mean that the US State Department will allow importation.
- Could this not also be seen as a backlash against both US global brand dominance and US foreign policy within the region? There has been a Moroccan version of Barbie® - but are the issues much wider than dressing an American-created doll in ethnic clothes? As stated in Chapter 2 of the textbook the US-led invasion of Iraq has proved a globally unpopular political action. You may also want to refer back to Chapter 2 in terms of the rise of non-US cola drinks. Could the specific actions of the US government have a direct negative impact upon US brands – not just within the Middle East but globally?
- The manufacturers would like to import the doll into the North America. On the surface this should have no repercussions what so ever – after all it is only a doll! However can the marketing company be sure? When France refused to support the US government’s invasion of Iraq, French produce was boycotted. Even French fries, which have nothing to do with the France, were renamed Freedom fries (although they have now reverted back to being ‘French’). As America comes to terms with the many difficult issues/questions surrounding its involvement in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, perhaps, as a nation, it will be more tolerant of the importation of a child’s doll? However, who can really tell?
- There is debate across the Middle East as to whether such commercialisation is within Muslin values. Many suggest that it is as long as it is for good; some suggest that it emblematic of a trend towards Islamic conservatism the Middle East while others suggest that it goes directly against Islamic teachings. Clearly an area of diverse opinion and debate.
- Interestingly, apparently, both Barbie® and Fulla® are manufactured by the same Chinese sub-contacted company.
- Already there are counterfeit copies of the Fulla® doll being sold across the Middle East.
- Undertake further research and consider what could be the barriers, if any, of marketing this product into both Muslin and non-Muslin countries.
- If you were a toy designer what other types of ethnic dolls could you create? Do you feel that there would be a market for such dolls? Support your view with evidence.
Sources: TD Monthly (2005) The road to Damascus: A whole new fashion doll for the Middle East. TD Monthly Vol 4 No 10 October; Zoepf, K. (2005) Bestseller in Mideast: Barbie with a prayer mat. The New York Times Online 22 September. Zoepf, K. (2005) Barbie pushed aside in Mideast cultural shift. International Herald Tribune Online 22 September; The Guardian (2005) Hijab doll ousts Barbie as Muslim favourite. The Guardian Online 23 September; Al-Jadda, S. (2005) Move over, Barbie. USA Today 14 December; O’Loughlin, E. (2005) Fulla has the Mid-East doll market covered. The Sydney Morning Herald 22 December; Labib, M. (2006) Veiled Fulla is Arab answer to Barbie. Middle East Online 11 January; BBC (2006) Barbie loses out to veiled rival. BBC News Online 12 January. Campbell, M. (2006) Barbie hasn’t a prayer against devout Islam doll. The Sunday Times, Times Online 22 January.
Punt Road Winery – Melbourne. This is a small Yarra Valley winery in Victoria, Australia. This is an example of a small company that has built a reputation for creating great wines within a limited range. It is important to remember that a large proportion of business comprises micro and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These companies may compete locally and regionally rather than on the international/global stage. However, they still have to market their products/services to the local/regional community.
Brazil and Ethanol
During 2005 the world witnessed further rises in the price of oil on the international markets. Many analysts believe that the price of oil per barrel has not reached its ceiling. Indeed some have speculated over US$100 a barrel in the not-too-distant future. Many individuals and organizations are dependant upon oil and its various refined products for everyday comfort. These range from heating and lighting through to transportation (whether themselves or the products they buy through the distribution (placement) networks).
Companies have strove to find alternative fuels for cars – yet few have proved economically viable that is, perhaps, until now. Ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) is produced from the fermentation of sugars, molasses and grains by yeast cells. In its pure state it is a colourless liquid with a pleasant odour. However, it is combustible and can be used in modified car engines.
Brazil is rich in sugar cane and once the sugar has been extracted the ‘waste’ from the cane can be refined into ethanol. Now ethanol is considered the most advanced alternative to petrol available on a mass scale. Brazil has already converted 80% of its cars to run on either ethanol or petrol. However, as ethanol is approximately 30% cheaper than imported petroleum, Brazil’s drivers are opting for ethanol.
The government supported plan is to build new refining mills and to develop Brazil as an exporter of ethanol. Already Japan has stated that it is interested in purchasing ethanol from Brazil for use in the country’s vehicles.
Further information on ethanol and its potential markets can be found at the following websites:
Sao Paulo Sugarcane Agroindustry Union – www.unica.com.br
Listed under ‘presentation’ are various downloadable articles and presentations on the market for ethanol both now and in the future.
Brazilian Motor Manufacturers Association – www.anfavea.com.br
This website is in Spanish.
Farrell, W. (2000) How Hits Happen: Forecasting Predictability in a Chaotic Marketplace. London and New York: Texere.A practical and entertaining text on how complexity science and its implications affect product innovations and market share.