Canon Inc (Japan)

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Once known only as the world's leading camera maker, Canon has slowly seen the nature of its business change over the years, first towards business machines, and now more firmly in the direction of computer peripherals. The group has delivered spectacular growth since the late 1990s, and is the world's leading manufacturer of office copiers, laser and bubble-jet printers. It generates more than a fifth of its revenues from sales to Hewlett Packard which resells Canon laser printers under the HP badge. However, like other companies in its sector, it has suffered the impact of the economic downturn since 2008, at least in part from the soaring value of the Japanese yen against other currencies. Canon is one of Japan's most international businesses, generating almost 80% of its revenues overseas.

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Brands

Canon Electronics Canon Aptex
Canon Sales Canon Software
Canon Chemicals Copyer Co.
Criterion Software Canon Financial Services

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd May 2017: Ads of the Week: "Live For The Story". VCCP takes Canon in a different direction with this clever and stylish pan-European campaign. Not a camera to be seen; instead the focus is on the story that lies behind any individual image. It's a brave angle, and the spot aims to get into our heads with some striking imagery as our protagonist grows up through a series of life moments. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Feb 2015: Canon signaled a shift in strategy with a $2.8bn offer to acquire Axis Communications, a Swedish company that is a global leader in video surveillance and security cameras. Canon's two main businesses of digital still cameras and office equipment have been under intense pressure in recent years.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Dec 2014: Ads of the Week: "Urban Deer". The latest spot from star director Jonathan Glazer and JWT London for Canon couldn't be more different than its predecessor (previously featured here), which offered a view of Italian "gladiator football". This time it's the urban deer that haunt London's Epping Forest suburb which fall under Glazer's eye. As before, the entire ad was filmed on Canon devices. The deer themselves are enchanting, but we feel the real stars of the spot are that urinacious fox and his little kitten buddy...

Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Sep 2014: Ads of the Week: "Gladiator Football". American football and ice hockey are for wimps! At least compared to Calcio Storico, the so-called "gladiator football" played each year in the Italian city of Florence. It's the striking (in more ways than one) star of director Jonathan Glazer's great new spot for Canon via JWT London. It might appear to say little about the camera brand until you realise that the whole thing was filmed on ordinary Canon cameras. Clearly, what Rodney Dangerfield *should* have said was "I went to a fight the other night and a Calcio Storico match broke out..."

Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Nov 2013: The emergence of ever higher quality cameras in smartphones has begun to take its toll on high-end devices made by Canon, Nikon and Sony. Camera phones have already effectively killed off the compact camera market, as witnessed by the recent collapse of Kodak. However, sales of digital SLR devices continued to rise, peaking at a record 19.1m devices last year. This year, though, has seen a sudden collapse in demand. Canon and Nikon both lowered their sales forecasts over the summer, and researcher IDC now predicts a 9% decline in the market as a whole to 17.4m units, with the biggest impact on lower-priced entry-level SLR cameras. The key factor is not just the increasing sophistication of smartphone cameras, but the widening popularity of software such as Instagram and other apps that allow infinite experimentation without the hassle of having to change lenses and settings. In an interview with the WSJ, Canon spokesman Takafumi Hongo offered an eloquent defence of SLR cameras over mobiles. "Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.'' However there's no denying that modern consumer tastes lean more towards immediate satisfaction than to time and patience.


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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory was founded in 1933 by keen photographer Goro Yoshida and his brother-in-law Saburo Uchida. Their aim was to manufacture cheap copies of the high quality German-made Leica and Contax cameras which then led the market. In 1934, Yoshida launched a prototype of the first Japanese-made 35mm focal-plane shutter camera, and named it "Kwanon" after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. His partner suggested a less religious name and they settled on Canon. The pair licensed the sales operation to another company, Omiya Shashin Yohin, who already marketed a range of optical devices under the Hansa brand. The first Hansa Canon cameras were launched commercially at the end of 1935, for around half the price of a Leica.

With limited funds, production was slow and the company could only turn out ten or fewer cameras a week. In 1936 Yoshida and Uchida handed control of the business, now renamed Seiki Kogaku Kogyo (Precision Optical Industry Co.), to a group of investors. With the new funding they were able to increase staffing. Another benefit was the outbreak of war with China in 1937, which led to the introduction of heavy duties on all imported goods, including German cameras. In 1940, the factory was commission to produce a range of X-ray cameras for military use, as well as high-grade optical lenses. This left it in a strong position to strengthen its business after World War II. In 1946, Takeshi Mitarai, one of the original investors in Precision Optical Industry, was appointed as the company's new president. He focused the business on overtaking Leica, changing the company's name to Canon Camera Company, and floating the business on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1949.

In 1950, Canon acquired a substantial new factory in Tokyo in order to begin preparations for its first steps into the US, the world's biggest photographic market. In 1951, the first Canon cameras went on sale in the US, through local wholesaler Balfour-Gasley. The company opened its own sales outlet on 5th Avenue in New York in 1955, but soon found direct retailing too much hard work. In 1961, Canon appointed Bell & Howell as its US distributor. Later Canon bought out B&H's New York office and rebranded it as Canon USA. The group's retail operations in the US and Japan were later spun off into a separate, independent business, Canon Sales.

The company had also begun to diversify. In 1956, Canon launched the first Japanese-made 8mm cine camera, followed by a projector in 1958. In 1959, it launched a new camera with a zoom lens, at the time a rarity among non-professional cine cameras. But the real breakthrough was the Canonet, a low price, automatic exposure camera, introduced in 1961. It was a huge success, selling a million units within two years. The same year, Canon spent a substantial amount of money launching the Synchroreader, an unusual audio-visual copying device. That product proved a failure, but it marked Canon's first steps into the office equipment sector. Meanwhile the company introduced its first desktop calculator in 1963, the 10-key Canola 130. In 1967, a new division was established specifically to manufacture office equipment, and by 1969 business machines accounted for more than 42% of Canon's total sales. Around 30% of the company's sales alone came from its range of Panther calculators. That year the company shortened its name to Canon Inc.

In 1970, the group began establishing manufacturing plants outside Japan, first in Taiwan, followed by Germany and the US. Its biggest problem was to find a way to build copying machines without infringing the copyright of Xerox, then the world leader in that sector, with more than 600 patents relating to electrophotographic copying. As a result, Canon was forced to develop its own system, and launched the first non-Xerox commercial copier, the NP-1100, in 1970. Later models used a unique "liquid dry" system, printing with liquid toner onto plain paper. Cameras remained an integral, but ever smaller, part of the business. Mid-decade, Canon was briefly overtaken as the world's foremost camera maker by Minolta, but regained its lead with the high-profile launch in 1976 of the AE-1 SLR camera. It was succeeded by the AF-Plus autofocus model, or "Sureshot", introduced in 1979.

Meanwhile Canon's research department was exploring new ways to improve office automation. A major breakthrough came in the early 1980s with the development of a new ink printing technology which the company named Bubble Jet. The first commercial model, the Canon BJ-80 Bubble Jet printer, was launched in 1985. During the 1990s, the company ventured briefly into computers, linking up with IBM to make portable PCs with integrated printers. This line was abandoned in 1997. However, sales of the group's numerous computer peripherals soared as a result of the huge boom in computer sales. See full profile for current activities


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