To many people, jets and cars are not products?they’re icons. Companies such as Boeing and General Motors have long viewed consumer passion about their brands as assets. But fulfilling the many requests from the public for photos is an administrative headache that can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year when labor expenses are included.
By combining digital-imaging technology and an e-commerce back end, however, Boeing and GM have converted this time-consuming task into revenue. Each company recently outsourced management and distribution of its photo archives to Getty Images, a large commercial image bank. Getty set up two business-to-consumer websites?BoeingPhotoStore.com and GMPhotoStore.com?that each offer more than 1,500 images to buy. The sites act as a front end for Getty’s fulfillment systems, which handle printing, distribution and billing.
Boeing launched its photo store website at the end of 2002. “Previously, [our] people would pull photos out of drawers and call some remote corner of the company,” says Sandra Andrews, director of trademark and copyright licensing for Boeing. The calls might get funneled to the communications office or languish unanswered. Now, the photo store site gets 65,000 monthly visitors (60 percent from outside the United States). An average order is for two to four photos, for $50 to $60. That’s enough revenue that BoeingPhotoStore.com is already close to being profitable, even counting up-front costs for archiving and scanning images. (Boeing declined to cite its project’s cost.)
Andrews says the quick ROI is “nice,” but the biggest benefit to Boeing comes in avoided administrative costs. “We measure success by how many requests come to us from various sources” outside the website, she says. The phone calls have almost dropped to zero. And the site helps the company boost awareness that Boeing makes more than airplanes, Andrews says. Many of the images are of aerospace and military products, such as the F/A-18 Hornet in aircraft carrier operations.
Boeing and GM are the beachhead for a push into corporate image marketing by Getty. The photo store concept “probably appeals to 100 companies worldwide, whose imagery has broad consumer appeal,” says Pete Peterson, Getty’s director of media management services. “We joke that it’s trains, planes and automobiles.”