The picture at Nikon headquarters doesn’t look good–the company, one of the leaders in digital photography, is bleeding from multiple orifices. Point-and-shoot cameras have cratered, the Nikon 1 System sales are lackluster in key markets, and DSLRs, the foundation of the company’s success, are dropping too and no longer enough to keep the ship afloat.
With stock prices at a three-year low, Nikon is making an all-out effort to right the ship. As part of a major restructuring of the company, Nikon has named Ashton Kutcher as CEO. Kutcher, best known as the ex-husband of ageless Demi Moore, is a controversial decision, but has worked with Nikon in the past as spokesmodel.
Kutcher’s prior executive experience includes playing Apple CEO Steve Jobs in the movie “Jobs”, and Nikon hopes that Kutcher will bring a little bit of Jobs’ magic with him.
Kutcher is wasting no time in his new role and has already called for rehearsals to prepare for his Jobs-like introduction. Kutcher has been seen at Nikon headquarters in jeans, Birkenstocks, and mock turtleneck, belittling staffers while exhorting them to “do more of whatever it is that you do, and do it better! Like Apple!” He is also planning a full-on media assault, with a dozen new Nikon ads featuring him acting like Jobs. When asked about Kutcher’s thoughts on future product development, Nikon spokesperson Suzuki Kawasaki said, “Mr. Jobs…errr, I mean Mr. Kutcher is focusing on his role right now and has not made any decisions regarding present or future product.”
Bringing in a celebrity outsider is not without precedent. Recently, an ailing Polaroid named entertainer Lady Gaga as Creative Director of Specialty Products and Chris Farley is the mayor of Toronto.
Nikon, of course, is not the only camera company suffering from the invasion of the smartphones. Canon, we’ve been told, has spoken with Andre Agassi about a role on the board, Sony is in negotiations with Papa Smurf to use low-wage Smurfs to build lenses, and Olympus is speaking with someone named Ben Kenobi, who insiders say is their only hope.