In a promotion for charity announced yesterday and noted on the Cancer Blog, Ritz Camera will partner with Carmen Electra to promote two new printing services, standard square print sizes of 5" and 6", and the ability to also get large prints in 1 hour (previously unavailable). Aside from the interesting partnership with Head for Hollywood (a charity granting "magical experiences for children who have brain cancer"), the promotion also promises to take a celebrity more known for being in front of the camera and putting her behind the lens. Carmen Electra is positioned as a "vibrant celebrity and photographer" – an interesting leap for a celebrity known for her seductive photo shoots and line of strip tease aerobics videos. For some time now, Ritz and their offline competitors have focused on trying to capture a segment of the digital photo printing market that is increasingly turning online due to price incentives and ease of use. Using Carmen Electra’s sex appeal and including a charity seems like a winning combination for Ritz Camera. Unfortunately, the problem in their strategy lies not in the campaign, but in what it drives people to. Their website (RitzPix) remains substandard in it’s usability, design and functionality. Ultimately, Ritz Camera is a brand that needs to appeal to multiple generations of family users with differing levels of skill online. The site has a cluttered interface, too many steps, confusing ordering process, no easy uploading tool, and limited abilities to edit photos for things like red-eye reduction or recropping (which most online competitors offer). These barriers will keep all but those users who desperately need prints within an hour from using the site. As much as I would love to see this promotion result in many charity dollars to donate to Head for Hollywood, the more likely outcome will be a lesson for Ritz Camera on just how important the quality of the user interface for RitzPix is to making marketing campaigns like this a success.
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Rohit Bhargava is a trend curator, founder of the Non-Obvious Company, and the author of six best selling business books including the Wall Street Journal best seller Non-Obvious.