When the former senior manager at Kodak took over the reins as Hasselblad UK MD just over a year ago he immediately initiated a radical cultural shift at the legacy company, in a bid to dramatically increase customer exposure to latest ranges of medium format capture technology.
A key challenge was to overcome perceived price issues (despite earlier swingeing cuts of up to 40% at the counter) and seduce new customers with H4 Series products and a dangling price-tag under £13,000.
"Things just had to change" says Russell-Fish. "We knew from research that in some quarters we had been seen not just as too costly but also as resting too much on historic laurels. Some photographers thought (wrongly) that our cameras and software were difficult to use. And when people were asked how much they thought a new Hasselblad cost they would say ‘Oh that’ll be £25,000 or £30,000 won’t it? It’s a serious misconception. Our latest H4D Series starts at just £12,995 for the body, viewfinder and an 80mm lens.
Additionally, many had no idea that we have a full service department in the UK – and that their cameras didn’t needed to be sent back to Denmark for repair. There was a serious disconnect and lack of understanding about where we stood in the marketplace - and it was costing us market share. We urgently needed a paradigm shift."
He adds: "I spoke to hundreds of photographers before I launched a mission to change all the inaccurate perceptions of Hasselblad in the UK. Now we are doing things differently – and it’s paying off."
Russell-Fish (45) set about building a new team around him at the company’s UK HQ in Elstree, Herts.
He says: "We started listening to our customers like never before. They told us what they needed and we responded by developing a new series of cameras that deliver outstanding medium format solutions to a brand new generation of high-end 35mm photographers. We created faster capture rates, high ISO ratings, up to four minute exposure times, True Focus technology for simple and accurate near-field composing; the 35-90 lens, and updated Phocus software that dramatically reduces the learning curve for users – the average photographer can get up to speed in less than half an hour.
In the UK our ears are pinned back like never before. Our ‘listening’ strategy has led to a range of new ideas, initiatives and programmes that are already making a mark on the industry.
The launch of the Hasselblad Owners’ Club provides registered Hasselblad customers with a unique opportunity to interact with the company and other users, plus free online space for publishing short personal biographies and showcasing images.
We’ve also launched a unique nationwide educational roadshow giving hundreds of UK students at colleges and universities an exclusive opportunity to test drive our new H4D cameras and engage directly with the company."
He continues: "And our Studio Days programme has been an eye opener for young photographers who may have previously thought Hasselblad cameras too complex for them, or the software too difficult to use or the price point way out of reach. We’ve been dispelling those myths up and down the UK."
Under the new Russell-Fish regime it’s change like never before at Hasselblad in the UK.
He says: "I believe every photographer should have a Hasselblad in their armoury – for the right thing at the right time. I firmly believe that just allowing more photographers simply to get their hands on one of our cameras is the most important thing."
Customer service is a key driver in the Russell-Fish commercial strategy to revitalise the company’s fortunes. The London-based Pro Centre, which has specialised in camera and lighting hire since 1988, is set for its biggest ever facelift – embracing an expanded solutions syllabus.
And a comprehensive raft of new added value propositions will continue to roll out from Elstree HQ.
Russell-Fish says: "This is our opportunity to deliver a ‘Hasselblad family’ oriented service. People need to know that they are buying into far more than just a camera.
We are not just selling a very smart capture device in a box – we are establishing and reinforcing a completely new Hasselblad imaging community environment in the UK."
Alongside ongoing new product launches and the customer outreach programme, Russell-Fish is working with other major industry players like Apple and Epson, in a bid to offer a total workflow solution for all Hasselblad customers.
He concludes: "I know that all this represents a massive sea change. But it’s all deliverable. And it will be."