The Psychology Behind Camera Rumors and Leaks as a Marketing Strategy

Amazing, isn’t it, how reliable the rumor mill has become. Thanks to dedicated camera rumor sites — that can be read in real time on our Live Feed — we know many weeks if not months in advance when what cameras will hit the market. Common marketing strategy would suggest rumors undermine sales of existing products. But what if many of the camera leaks are intentional. Can you imagine a better and cheaper publicity for an upcoming camera than a juicy good leak? There is growing evidence that camera manufacturers systematically spread rumors and leaks as a ploy to create hype, outdo the competition and test the waters for acceptance of retail pricing before product release.

True, the human being is weak and faulty. No company will ever develop a completely airtight security system preventing the leaking of information that’s not yet supposed to be known.

Be it the manufacturing process, application for a patent or production of marketing material, countless employees, suppliers and subcontractors are involved and have insider knowledge. Bribes to get information are not uncommon, but even with the best of intentions: the human being is never impeccable.

Camera rumors say as much about cameras as about our psychology -- gear makers know to capitalize on this.
Camera rumors say as much about cameras as about our psychology and purchase behavior — gear makers know how to capitalize on this.
More and more, however, the rumor mill is intentionally fed. Let’s say camera maker A announces a camera and camera maker B isn’t yet ready with a similar product.

An strategic leak by company B talking up a “secret” surprise feature can create a hype that outshines the product company A just announced.

The more difficult the market is, the more aggressive the PR machinations of camera manufacturers become. Strategic leaks and whispering campaigns, often started by a single inconspicuous image, can create more buzz than costly conventional marketing campaigns.

In fact, a sales and marketing director of a major camera manufacturer we all know recently told me that his marketing guys have great fun in inventing new leaks and rumor campaigns. For obvious reasons I can neither mention the name of the company nor person, but rest assured that these marketing guys are very well aware of the fact that any intentionally leaked image will always find its way into the blogoshpere from were it can spread like wildfire; and be it a heavily cropped or totally blurry image.

These marketing guys find it not only very entertaining to create rumor campaigns, they also consider these campaigns to be highly effective.

In the past leaks were almost always the inevitable result of the human failings that lead to security breaches in nearly every other aspect of life. The weakest link in any security system is always the human factor.

Today, however, strategic rumors and leaks have become a shrewd marketing tool. The industry has come to realize that buzz is the most powerful market driver in the world. Add the power of social media and our urge to always want the latest and greatest.

Never mind that a good rumor is in fact an act of sabotage. Who cares. Rumors aren’t illegal as long as they’re not outright damaging. We all enjoy the buzz and anticipation.

What? Rumors can seriously affect a camera maker’s image and finances? Don’t think so. The price decline of “old” gear is dramatic. It makes more commercial sense to drive away sales from the competition than trying to get rid of old inventory. And what easier than monetizing our human weaknesses.

Our thirst for camera rumors has to do with our deeply rooted urge wanting to know more about what troubles, moves and fascinates us. Ignoring rumors, therefore, can be closely related to peace of mind. It’s important to understand how marketing and rumors interact and how they play us gearheads.

It’s totally alright to follow the rumor mill if you’re convinced your current camera setup limits your possibilities or if a new lens or accessory is available that you really need for certain work.

But often we’re forced to upgrade for no reason.

The proof lies in brand-new gear often resold in no time or collecting dust in an expensive camera bag.

  • Bengt Nyman

    That is true for many sites except a few, like Sonyalpharumors that seems to be based mostly on one persons fantasies, whims and wishes.

    • On the contrary, A. of SAR is doing an excellent job — probably the best run rumor site besides 43rumors.

      • Bengt Nyman

        I guess that remains a matter of opinion. Rumors that remain the same, unsubstantiated and unrealized year after year are not useful information.

        • It’s an art in itself to keep a rumors site going. Whereas camera makers first even tried to threaten some of these sites, by now they seem to see the benefits of it.

          • Bengt Nyman

            Agreed, many of them are doing a good job.

  • Brad

    Both before and after the creation of the rumor sites, There were always stocks of older models available on shop shelves next to the latest and greatest. I think the buzz created at the high end actually helps keep sales and prices of a new model up and out of the discount bin for longer.

    The high end models are also the models that are the most profitable so keeping the street prices closer to RRP for longer is beneficial for profits.

  • skeptic

    “forced” to upgrade?