A Brand Called “Kodak”

Post date: Feb 9, 2012 5:18:50 AM updated Tuesday, Sep. 4th 2018

Digital Killed Kodak or was it Lack of Vision? Latest news is that Kodak is trying to reopen a niche with new photographic film and yes surprise: Kodak Reports Q2 Net Earnings of $4 Million and Continued Growth in Key Products, revenues of $372 million and continued growth in its KODAK SONORA Process-Free Plates, KODAK FLEXCEL NX Packaging and KODAK PROSPER Inkjet businesses.

Once the hallmark of photography, Kodak has filed chapter eleven while restructuring for the digital revolution. But doesn’t it seem kind of late? A move to adapt when the train has already left. I can attest to having tons of prints & slides in various format. Bottom-line: assets of $5.1 billion and debts of $6.75 billion...you do the math...

How does a brand that was a synonym of innovation and survived so much competition and emerging technologies, finally throw the towel? Wasn't this evident, what happened? How does a company loose it's edge and become obsolete in it's own turf? Sounds like the iPod vs. Sony Walkman...along comes this new technology and the later just becomes history. Was it too much R&D? Lousy management?

Before we answer let me walk you down memory lane. If you where born in the digital era, the Kodak brand may not ring many bells. In my case, the first camera I owned was the Instamatic with a 110mm film cartridges, pocket size. Then I remember going to Summer Camp in New Hampshire where I enrolled in my first photography course and my Dad let me take his 35mm Zeiss-Ikon camera. It was heavy, it was precise, pure German engineering clockwork.

Probably my love for photography & imaging comes from my Father. He would film us with his 8mm Kodak camera, send the film for processing in Panama which was the only place that developed film and then months later we actually saw the movies on a screen in our living room. Yes they were in color, yes they had "no" sound.

In my long romance with photography I may have spent months of my life in relative time trapped by light in a dark room. This was when I met the Kodak ASA 400 which had a 100ASA grain but could be forced to 800. Still have boxes of B&W print in all sizes and formats. Just the idea brings back the scent of chemicals needed to process that great 100 in a hundred silver gelatin print.

I recall an episode in Mad Men that very well captures the role the Kodak Carrousel played in our lives. Just saving money to by rolls of Kodakchrome 25 & 64, you can even see the layers of color. but I just went digital. The cost per click became trivial, everyone who can point and shoot is now a photographer and sharing can be done online, just with a couple of clicks.

So lets get back to the why did Kodak fail?

Paranoia; Canon and Nikon which where "coopetitors" saw it coming and rapidly went digital, when Kodak figured this out it was probably too late.

Convergence: "gadgetization" = iPhone, Smart Phones, Cellphones, Flatscreens, USB Drives, Macs and PCs...suddenly we have all these apparatus with imaging capabilities and we shoot like crazy, anytime, anyplace...

Pricing Strategy: the cost of shooting became trivial, instead of thinking out if it was worth the click, with digital, you could just point and shoot, just for the fun of it at a ultra low cost.

Immediate Retribution and User Experience: with the emergence of social media; you shoot, you view, you upload and you share. No need to send the roll to the lab...satisfaction guaranteed. End of day we shoot to immortalize moments and we want to share these moments.

George Eastman - founded Kodak in 1889

How does Kodak Get Back into Profitable Terrain?

1.) ID Core Strength: what can Kodak do better than any other company?

Kodak Management believes it's printing, SW&Svcs., Packaging.

But Kodak is really about "memories" and memories need to be on some type of support, way it's going it's digital...satisfaction and pricing...kids these days don't have cameras, it's a Cell Phone and up in the cloud.

  • This author believes it's beating the competition with innovation. Where are the $X billions in R&D?

Kodak Management Believes in Four Core Product Groups Established Digital Cash Generators;

  • Consumer Inkjet to Achieve Profitability During 2011
  • Commercial Inkjet to Achieve Profitability During 2012
  • Workflow Software & Services
  • Packaging Solutions

Why this won't work?

  • Kodak is not unique in any of the areas where it plans to dig trenches.
  • Where does the cloud fit into all this or is it part of the SW+Svcs.?
  • Is the consumer really demanding more prints? they must have strong numbers behind this, yet goto any WalMart, Walgreens and the printing machines are generally empty..
  • Consumers need printers, sure, but they must be compatible with the upcoming gadgetry, if you ask me I'm after the "Air Print" technology where HP and Epson already lead. In addition the prnter has to do paper and photos where Kodak doesn't seem to ring any bells.
  • What about that big "R" called recession hanging over our heads? Unemployment and consumer confidence? well those are variables that are probably in the equation.
  • Disrupting Trends and Technologies: social media is Kodak's biggest enemy but if the right partnerships and joint ventures come in time, Kodak could benefit big time. To date I've seen no presence of Kodak in the New Media...seems they are missing out on this one too?

What will Works:

  • Stick to your guns
  • Go Big, Go Bold:
    • Give the printers for free
      • Charge only the ink and paper
  • Sharing memories is where all this is going
    • Engage with the big Social Media players and Gadget Manufacturers
      • Become a "facilitator" for printing memories from social media sites & gadgets
      • Include S&H
      • Engage the digital generation
  • Get out of the business space - all companies are promising the same thing and trying to make photocopying something that it's not.

For now none of the photo products I have are Kodak but I'm a potential customer, just make it easier for me to get there.