Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flip flop.

"The New York Times" reported today that in just four years the Flip camcorder has gone from 'hot' to 'not.' Cisco Systems, who bought Flip for $590 million just two years ago has shut down its video camera division. The Flip, which was wondrous and transformational when it burst onto the scene, was buried by smart phones (how smart are they, really, when you can't even have a decent call on one) with video capabilities.

The obsolescence of Flip provides, I think, three lessons.

One, Cisco Systems, which is a b-to-b provider had no real business buying a consumer brand. They succumbed to Apple-envy. Thought they could be cool, hip and on everyone's lips. Cool is not the answer to everything. Cisco's market cap hovers around $100 billion. They've earned their heft by being good, reliable, innovative and boring. Some times that's enough.

Two, Flip was one of those products that was going to change everything. Kodak, Sony and other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and came out with their own "me-too" flip-alikes. Very few products, services, songs, celebrities, words, politicians change everything. Everything doesn't very much like to change.

Three, when Flip went "big time," they did insipid advertising that showed happy people made even happier because they "flipped." Each blandishment ended with the question "do you Flip?" Dumb, gratuitous and without any ownable benefit. I'm not saying advertising would have kept Flip in business, we'll never know if it would have, but I contend good advertising would have helped.


Tore Claesson said...

Thing is that Flip is a brilliant product.
Everybody wants to shot video. Normal video cameras are stupidly complex. Flip isn't. Shoot, then upload directly from the camera. It's decent for what it is. Problem is they have not managed to market it well enough, it became a banal kiddie product. instead of a great family tool. And they haven't kept up with other cameras as far as resolution goes. Their so called HD isn't. Even so, smart phones are no match for Flip when it comes to video of the weeding, the bar mitzvah, the brit, the birthday, the party, etc. It's just that most people have a phone that can shoot a few minutes video already. Which they use if they're not into video cameras. Flip shouldn't flop. The advertising isn't saying the right things. Its advertising is silly crap that could be used (unsuccessfully) for any device that could capture a little video. Sometimes you need the advertising to teach people what they don't know. This is such a case.

geo said...

Their advertising was lazy. Imagine if you were a salesperson in the camcorder section. And all the work you did was say to customers "Do you Flip?" You wouldn't make any sales and you'd likely lose your job.

Tore Claesson said...

right george. and excuse my typos (as usual.)

Tore Claesson said...

as i learn that flip is a rather good seller, but a lot of people think of it as redundant maybe shutting it down was unavoidable. however, i think it could have a place as a really simple and good quality video device. The smart phone penetration is about 50%, but i wonder if there isn't a market for an easy to use dedicated device such as Flip nevertheless. Video on a slightly more serious level is better shot on slr cameras where a degree of lens control/focus pulling matters. the "classic" over-complicated video cameras are in my view worse than both flip and slrs. even though flip apparently was a best seller i'm not sure it was clearly understood.
decent sound, resolution, extended storage time (flash cards perhaps) would make flip truly useful for those who want nice video of everyday stuff. it's not so much about sending little video snippets from your smart phone of all that happens around you. more about filming your life events and for some, being a little creative. Sure, you can take nice photos with an iphone. but if you want to take really nice photos you get a camera still.