the stolen camera

products have a life cycle & how aggregate products may have episodes of disappointment

Glenfinnan’s monument is special for Anna and I; we visited the monument some 30 years before. We had seen a film set in Scotland ‘Local Hero’, we loved the soundtrack by Mark Knofler, and decided to visit the three key locations in the film. So we were passing through this historic sight without much knowledge of its place in Scottish history. In those days of Margaret Thatcher, I would cautiously suggest the the Scottish people seemed less interested in nurturing and cultivating their Scottish identity than they are now – or perhaps I was just more influenced by a movie and a soundtrack. As we travelled along the road to Mallaig we spotted a monument on our left. Did a U-turn and parked in the visitor’s centre, ventured out of the warmth of the car and took 3 photographs. The photographs were taken on a Canon AE1+program, which was great camera, we had saved up for a long time as it was about 20% the cost of a typical new car, it was arguably the top amateur camera of the time. One photograph was particularly special. This is a one-off photograph [the type professional photographers would sleep in a tent in the rain for three nights just to capture] the photograph has adorned the wall of our kitchen ever since and receives a great deal of interest, Anna even chose the colour of the ‘feature’ wall to suit the photograph. So we planned to revisit Glenfinnan’s monument and try to recapture some of the magic and refresh our memories.  When the original photograph of Glenfinnan’s monument was taken it was mid April and the tail end of a very cold winter, the grassland was the colours of Harris Tweed and the mountains were a series of fading silhouttes, the mountains were snow-capped. Truth be told, this was another happenstance encounter, we pulled into the empty car park read about the statue from our Fromer’s guide book [no Google in those days], crossed the road, then I took three quick photos a portrait [snap] and two landscapes [snap, snap] – it was freezing that day and we were glad to get back into the car.
In those days cameras had a roll of film, then you would deliver the film to an authorized Kodak chemist who would send the films away for processing. When you collected the images from the chemist you would be charged per negative and per photograph. There was always a degree of uncertainty and anticipation and also some excitement when the yellow Kodak folder was opened. It was not like now where you immediately evaluate the quality of the photograph. For our earlier grand tour of Europe, I had elected to collect all the rolls of film from the holiday and wait till I was back in Australia and have them developed. In those days, it was common fear, that airport x-rays machines could effect the quality of film and with this in mind I stored the exposed films in an empty toffee tin. I then stored the tin, our camera, a Walkman and five audio cassettes; one of which was ‘Local Hero’ in a camera bag which I carried with me everywhere. You may have noticed that I said ‘our’ camera because there was time when it was common for a couple to share a camera – but not now – everyone has the own.

What adds to the story of the Glenfinnan photograph, is that we lost the negatives for some months. What happened was that later in our travels we were mugged at The Amsterdam Train Station. I had sensed that someone was following us, I just thought it was a pest, and when we made a phone call at a public phone box, keep in mind this is a time before mobile phones, I was pushed, lost my balance someone grabbed my camera bag and ran off, strange but I can still see this person in my mind to this day. It is funny how long-term memory works – long greasy brown hair, skinny face pointed jaw and wearing blue jeans and a grey parka jacket – he looked back to see if I was chasing – I didn’t. I was more worried what would happen to Anna if I did. Later, perhaps with a little cognitive dissonance, I reasoned that it was perhaps lucky I didn’t chase him as I may have been knifed or worse. What happened was someone found the camera bag in a rubbish bin, handed it to the Amsterdam Police, they sent it to the Australian embassy, who sent it to us. Unfortunately, missing from the bag was the camera, the Walkman and four of the five tapes [a Glen Campbell tape was rejected by our mugger and was still in the bag], fortunately, the opened toffee tin and the rolls of film were still in the bag.  In time, the films were developed and ‘put into’ a photograph album – which we look at from time to time. One of the negatives I had enlarged and mounted – as consumer behaviouralist, Russell Belk suggests, our photograph are not really true representations of the events but carefully selected and sanitized versions of events. So the photograph has a story. I often wonder if the our camera had a good life and did it take lots of happy photographs – for the record the camera was insured and whilst the full value was never retrieved we did receive something.

I often think about that bag when I am thinking about marketing theory – in that bag are a few marketing stories.

One is a story of product lifecycle, that products are continually being replaced by newer and better products, of consumers that are on a quest for new and better satisfying products, of companies that disappear simply because they fell a little behind and were no longer considered best satisfying.  It is interesting how things evolve, for example, in those days half the contents of our hire car are in our smartphones. The maps, the notebook with our itinery, the camera, the rolls of film for a camera, the Walkman, the audio cassettes, the postcards we bought to send – etc etc were all separate items back them. Today my smartphone has copies of my tickets, has a set of maps with voice directions, 1000s of songs, has a camera, a video, it stores the photographs in albums, has an app that replaced the need for postcards and even made public phone boxes obsolete. The takeaway is that, regardless of whether you consider marketing from a consumer or an organisation’s perspective, marketing is the quest for best satisfying products.

Within the bag there is also a story is about a ‘young couple’ who with a number of expectations, planned an adventure, and were mugged and lost a bag, however, when the entire holiday was evaluated, when they consider what they got and what they gave had ‘the holiday of a lifetime’. This is the example I think of when I consider how each episode/event/exchange is evaluated and then how all of these are mentally bundled together and are cumulatively evaluated. It suggests that whilst each episode is often a series of separate products, they can come together to form what could be described as ‘the aggregate product’. An aggregate product is the sum of all of the total products that fall under the one experience umbrella. Some products, particularly tourism products are a composite of total products sure they are evaluated individually, however, they are also evaluated cumulatively by each tourist and collectively by all tourists. A destination is evaluated individually, cumulatively, and collectively. Anna and I cannot recall the cost of each meal we had on that holiday 30 years ago we just recall that the entire holiday – the aggregate product was a seminal event in our lives.

The final marketing story is about ‘our mugger’ a person who, most likely, had a habit, was living on the darker side of consumption and had needs that were so demanding that they could only be satisfied by mugging, stealing, and selling. Did he know that what he was doing was wrong? – of course he did – but perhaps he had no choice – seminal products, product that change your life, also happen on the dark side of consumption.
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