Home Film Leica M6: A master class in marketing says Bellamy Hunt

Leica M6: A master class in marketing says Bellamy Hunt

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“If ever you want to see a masterpiece of marketing, look no further than what Leica have done to build up the hype for this camera. The secret whispers, little snippets of rumours, all under the veil of cloak and dagger, building us all up.”

So writes Bellamy Hunt on Japan Camera Hunter in admiration for both the new M6 (“They did it, they actually bloody did it…) and what he sees as Leica’s Machiavellian rumour management.

Joe Greer and the new Leica M6 (Image Leica Camera AG)

Few people know more about film cameras and Leica film cameras in particular. Bellamy is a font of knowledge on the subject, and I am impressed that he is so impressed with the launch of the Leica M6. Furthermore, he sees the new camera as becoming a major success, which is encouraging for anyone who loves the days of film.

And on the 38th year... the Leica M6 resurrected in 2022 (Image Leica Camera AG)
And on the 38th year… the Leica M6 was resurrected in 2022, complete with the original (but short-lived) Leitz dot (Image Leica Camera AG)

You can read Bellamy’s full story here and get his first impressions of the M6. He also looks at the effect the new M6 could have on the prices of the MP, which he thinks will soften as MP owners sell up and go for the new camera.

Stage management

But is Bellamy right in thinking that Leica is managing rumour-mongers like so many puppets on strings? Does the company deliberately scatter misleading titbits on a credulous blogosphere and wait for the first misshapen buds to appear?

I have my doubts. I first heard whispers of the “new film camera” nearly a year before it was announced earlier this month. First, it was just a new film camera, then possibly a remake of the M6, then it was a limited edition, and then it wasn’t. Then it was again.

Film cameras are on the up, and up, and there's only one shop left in town, Leica.
Film cameras are on the up, and up, and there’s only one shop left in town, Leica.

Yet I do not think these bits of information were deliberately leaked by Leica; they just slipped out. But failing to deny wild speculation, Leica probably gave a sort of credence to the story. That said, denying rumours never did any good. It just fans the flames. In this case, though, whatever happened in the background, the launch was handled flawlessly, and there can be few Leica aficionados who are not fully aware of the new Leica M6.

It isn’t always such a success story, however.

Many a slip…

Sometimes things go hideously wrong, as they did back in 2013 when the marketing department deliberately leaked the advent of a “Leica M Mini”. Enthusiasm for a smaller M (perhaps a rebirth of the old CL, some hoped) was palpable, and the rumours flew to such an extent that the expectations far exceeded reality.

The disappointment was excruciating when the estimable X Vario arrived to great fanfare in June of that year. Leica was put through the mangle by the commentariat and the poor old X Vario never really stood a chance. I would go so far as to say that the X Vario was doomed from the moment it was born, despite its many excellent qualities, which have now turned it into something of a cult camera among Leica stalwarts. As a camera in its own right, without misleading comparisons, it was a wonderful photographic tool. But as a Mini M, it was a flop.

More M6 film porn courtesy of Leica’s marketing department

Rumours can therefore work in many ways and not always to the advantage of the manufacturer. But there is no gainsaying the amount of publicity that Leica has garnered for the new M6. Without rumour sites and wagging tongues to fan the flames, I would argue that the new camera could have slipped in unnoticed except by hardcore Leica and film fans.

In this respect, Bellamy’s praise for Leica’s marketing is spot on. Whether it was deliberately orchestrated or simply the hostage of fortune, the marketing of the Leica M6 went spiffingly well.

What’s your view: Was the M6 launch built on a web of carefully placed rumours? Or did the rumours just happen by chance?

Talking of rumours, I hear that the new M6 could be in stock at some dealers from the launch date of November 3. Our local outlet, Red Dot Cameras, here in London, might have one or two still unallocated to customers, so it’s a good idea to call now if you are interested.

When they got it right: More on the reborn Leica M6

When they got it wrong: More on the Leica X Vario


44 COMMENTS

  1. I am with Bellamy, I believe pretty much all leaks are orchestrated nowadays, not only by Leica, rumor sites are essentially just an element in the marketing strategy of camera manufacturers, they allow a camera manufacturer to throw something out there and see how the customer base reacts. The other marketing aspect of importance is that Leica really did not release an M6, it released an MP dressed up like an M6 to tap into the heritage and the cult status of the M6.

  2. If only they’d rumored a maxi-X for the XV ! I got mine new shortly after release for two-thirds the advertised price. I suspect the dealer felt he had to get rid of his stock as quickly as possible…… I’ve always liked mine – both the IQ and the haptics – tho’ I’ve never quite settled whether I prefer it with handgrip or without. I do like the EVF which serves both my X2 and my XV. One thing I am sure of: I prefer it to a rangefinder any day from my limited loan of one of the latter. So the M6 is no GAS for me!

  3. For an alternative view on the Leica M6 (and everything else on this planet) watch Daniel Milnor on YouTube.

  4. Quelle Surprise! We live in an era of online content and social media and a commercial company uses these to market a new product, through leaks and otherwise. The same is done with cars, smartphones, music albums etc, etc. The objective, of course, is to create demand for the new product. There is nothing wrong with this. It is just part of the ‘new norm’, if I can use that terrible expression. Nothing to see here.

    William

    • Agree William. This is standard operating practice these days. If you’re not using these tools then you have failed to capitalize on the opportunities available.

      I might add these same tactics can be used very successfully to support/sustain a brand with declining sales. Now why didn’t Stefan Daniels think of doing that with the CL I wonder?

      • Because Stefan is in the wrong job. I am not impressed by Leica marketing in the past or product management decisions but that is just my opinion. However, I do believe that Leica will do more than survive in the shrinking market but only because of the merits of what they do have.

        • I guess, if I am ever blessed to travel to Wetzlar, I will have to be under an assumed name such as David Suchet

          • Try Hercule Poirot but you will have to walk like him to be authentic or Stefan will notice. David took advice, I recollect, from Laurence Olivier, to practice walking with an old penny coin clenched in his bum.

        • Hi Brain, in my opinion the M is very well managed, it is the other product lines where the only strategy seems to be to throw it at the wall and see whether it sticks, other than the M they really have no clue, I also believe Leica will survive in the shrinking market but I am not sure whether anything other than the M will remain…

          • To your latest points, making ad hominem comments about Stefan Daniel, who is an employee of and a spokesperson for Leica AG, does not advance the cause of what you are pursuing. Even though I have no personal interest in the L mount lines, I can fully understand the upset of users of the CL/TL models arising from their termination. Leica has made business/customer decisions and has to live with those decisions. Since the ‘digital turn’ about 20 years ago there have been a vast number of changes in digital camera design and in what has been offered to the market. Who could have foreseen then what the impact of smartphones would be on photography? They did not even exist at the beginning of the digital turn, but their impact on photography has been enormous.

            If anyone wants to make a case for the return of an APS-C line to the Leica portfolio, I suggest that they should prepare something based on sales for similar models and what users might want, including surveys, if that is possible. This would be more productive than making remarks about a Leica employee, who, in this case, did exactly what I asked him to do. I am just about to send a thank you note to him for coming to our conference in Dublin.

            As Mike has already suggested, anyone wishing to talk directly to Stefan about this can join LSI and attend our AGM in Wetzlar next year.

            William

        • Stefan Daniel is in exactly the right job. I have met him often and, while I would not regard him as a friend, I can say that he is always very professional about what he does and is very open about discussing matters with Leica users. I chaired his session in Dublin and I don’t recall the CL issues coming up (Mike may have a better memory of this) to any great extent, but he got questions about all sorts of other matters relating to the current Leica line up, particularly the ‘M with EVF’ concept. Remember what I said before about Leica being a company very much based on a ‘team ethic’ , so Stefan is not the only one involved in product decisions

          Likewise, I know David Suchet through the UK Society where he is the Honorary President. As well as being interested in Leica he is a great actor and is a warm and wonderful human being, which Mike can attest. In Wetzlar these days they tend to favour younger and more trendy ‘influencer’ types. So Brian when you are going to Wetzlar try wearing ripped jeans and all the other accoutrements of ‘trendiness’ and you will be fine.

          William

          • Hi William, Stefan might be a nice and professional guy, that however does not take away that Brian has a very valid point, especially with regards to the product management of the APS-C systems (X, T and CL) but also with regards to the S and even the SL system. It simply has been suboptimal, in the case of APS-C characterized by a complete lack of vision and marketing. Stefan not so long ago publicly spoke the legendary words that APS-C is a continuing part of Leica’s product portfolio… Well, we all know how that went… If Leica wants to become a company that is more than the M then they have to act like one as well…

    • I don’t believe Bellamy, or anybody else for that matter, has said there is anything wrong with this. It is indeed the way things are done nowadays.

    • I mentioned this in the article based on my chat with Stefan Daniel. The changes in the M6TTL to meant raising the height of the camera slightly. So changing the mechanism and using the larger dial meant that this camera would not be a true M6 rebirth. However, they did add the central “correct exposure” dot between the direction arrows which was first seen in the TTL.

  5. Most of the people, like me, are plain users. So, questions are do I like the camera?, does it fill my needs?, are its features what I’m looking for?, does it comply my expectations?, can I pay it? If the producers find many people matching those questions, that’s a success.

  6. William: since you’re not allowing comments on your APSC challenge I give you Canon, Fuji and Nikon who have either refreshed their APSC offerings recently or will do so shortly. When Leica shares its detailed sales figures then we can address their failure more precisely.

    Overall Leica failed to do two things 1) Find a “premium” product performance benefit that would attract sufficient new APSC users to the T/TL/TL2/CL brands from Canon, Fuji and Nikon at sustainable levels 2) A marketing and communications plan that would deliver those new customers as sales.

    • I’m not stopping any comments, just suggesting that the comments here should be de-personalised. Fire away with your comments and with the material, but ensure that they get to Wetzlar.

      William

      • Hi William, Stefan Daniel was nicknamed Mr M at Leica, I have no doubts that he is the right person to keep the M product line relevant, I do however as a customer have serious concerns about his ability to manage other product lines, and again as a customer I believe rightfully so because it cost me dearly. He is the EVP of Technology and Operations. If he is not responsible for the demise of the X, T, CL (and pretty soon S) product lines then who is?

        • As I said before, we should not personalise these issues. If you are interested in getting those product lines reinstated, you should follow the approach which I suggested. Making personal comments and expressing opinions here about Leica staff won’t advance your cause. It is for the Board of Leica AG and its shareholders to determine how well its senior executives are performing. As a customer, your focus should be on the company rather than an individual.

          William

          • As a customer if I ask Leica what to do with the six TL lenses I bought, they’ll probably just lift their eyebrows. Fortunately I only bought one. Perhaps that’s why people look for answers

          • There is nothing to reinstate, that ship has sailed, Leica took the decision to kill APS-C already 5 years ago by no longer investing in it, it would require massive investments now to come back on that decision, there is just a lot of anger, also or perhaps mainly because Leica is not very forthcoming about that, and yes, I would like to ask the person who’s name I apparently cannot use anymore why he kept lying to myself and other customers, saying that APS-C was a continuing part of the product range while he already knew it wasn’t, simple as that.

  7. None of that is denied. You should get your answers, of course, from the company. My point is about something entirely different, the personalisation of comments here. I hope this is clear.

    William

  8. What might be smarter is for Leica to host an online Q&A session for Leica APSC camera owners. Invites can be made here, DPR, and the Leica T-CL forum. Questions to be sent via email 5 days in advance. Someone from Leica to answer the questions live via Zoom. Time set to capture most interested parties around the world.

    • From what I’ve heard, it is likely to be available in most areas on the release date, November 3. I know a couple of UK dealers who could supply quickly. And the UK price of £4,500 (£3,750 or around $4,300 before tax) is quite attractive. I don’t know about import duties or local taxes, though.

      • It is not very clear, you might get hit with import fees and state taxes depending a/o on the carrier used and the state you live in.

      • Unfortunately the M6 does not appear to be shipping (in quantities), nor does it appear to be available in many places… One would have hoped that with the sourcing of new parts most of the supply chain issues would have gone away but apparently not… it is not immediately clear what the issue is… some people received an email indicating a next year delivery…

          • I am not in the market for one, at least not right now, I did take a look at Red Dot Cameras and they are out of stock as well, from what people are saying online it sounds like it might be a very very long wait… I just do not understand why Leica cannot get this right, we were told that sourcing the components form other suppliers would make things go a lot smoother but it does not appear to be the case…

  9. One question comes to my mind: in Italy the “old” MP and the “new” M6 are priced exactly the same. The M-A costs 100€ less. I’m just curious about what will happen with the two in the line up. The features are about the same, my impression is that it is all about aesthetics: the dot, the advance lever, the rewind knob, the frame selector, and that’s it. Will the choice of users be merely emotional and, more important, will Leica keep the two models on sale at the same time in the future?

    • It is interesting how the prices and the price differences are so different in each country. In the US the M6 is $400 cheaper than the MP and the M-A and all of them are outrageously overpriced compared to the UK (not sure how prices compare to the EU). My guess would be that the MP will disappear in a few years time. I cannot see Leica maintaining 3 all in all very very similar models. I personally very much like the fact that the MP has no front branding.

  10. The reasons for the short supply are probably the ramping up production lines and the introduction of ‘new’ skillsets. I presume the ‘new’ M6 is being sought for warranty reasons. I just put in a search for an M6 on eBay and 50 + examples came up on the first page alone. The ‘old’ M6 is in plentiful supply, but the price has gone up two to three fold in the past ten years. I am very fond of my own M6 which has been a very reliable camera over the years. I can recommend either version, even though I only took two shots with the ‘new’ one. Mike and Stefan were the subjects, but I have not seen the photos.

    William

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