Friday, January 6, 2012

This is not a Kodak moment

Where did it go wrong for Kodak?

Their company was founded on incredible technical innovation that met a huge consumer need.

They continued innovating throughout their history.

They were consistent advertisers, developing memorable emotional pitches that drove their market share to near monopoly status. In 1976 they sold 90% of the film and 85% of the cameras in America.

They leveraged their expertise into new categories like videotape and memory cards.

And while they may have been a little late to the party, it wasn't as if they ignored the digital revolution. In 2005, four of every ten digital camera's sold in the U.S. was a Kodak. They developed the first camera/printer dock, the first WiFi enabled camera, in 2006 they introduced the smallest 10x optical zoom camera.

And now, just six years later they stand on the brink of bankruptcy while Nikon and Canon continue to sell on the high end, and every smartphone and tablet has a camera function.

This is a tough one to figure out, but here goes.

They were too busy listening to what people said and not actually understanding what they really wanted.

Kodak built their business on preserving memories. Yet, while most people have albums and keep some pictures for the long term, today photography is really about sharing moments.

Yes, we can still go back and look at our pictures. But in the main, photographs are no longer meant for albums or frames. We're happy to take a quick shot of questionable quality and then hit share button, uploading it immediately to Facebook, Photobucket or Twitter so our friends can see what we're up to now.

Kodak missed that. While they engineered ever more elaborate cameras and sensor systems designed to improve the image quality, the market was running the other way fast.

So now another great American brand is disappearing. And I for one, will miss them.


  1. Harv: great piece! I think you correctly called it with "preserving memories vs sharing moments". I will miss them, too.

  2. Thanks Alan. I had not put a lot of thought into the category before, but looking at my own behavior and that of the people I know, picture taking has really change. We've gone from being archivists to journalists. It's fascinating.