“Did Kodak manufacture digital cameras?” I hear you ask. They invented digital. Back in 1975. But because they had a 90% share of the US film market they relied on film and developing fluids to make a living. Digital remained an afterthought. Well, it’s not an afterthought any more. It’s more like the actual marketplace now.
Yes, the competition got the better of them, to the tune of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So Kodak made it official: digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and digital picture frames will all be phased out. All done in an effort to “focus on profitable lines of business,” and if you’re wondering what “profitable lines of business” they’re talking about, so are we!
Kodak says that it plans to license out their name to other manufacturers. But if you’re stumped about who would choose the Kodak name over their own digitally-centered brand, so are we. According to the 2012 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, digital Point-and-Shoot camera brands rank as follows:
If you’re surprised that Kodak is last on the list you shouldn’t be. By all rights, the 131-year old company isn’t really much of a brand anymore, much less a 21st century digital brand. Not if you expect a “brand” to stand for something meaningful and differentiating in the mind of consumers.
What happened? Well, by the time the film business went into decline years back, Kodak tried to play catch-up with brands that had capitalized upon – and were believably identified with – digital. And imaging – not photographs. What Kodak stood for, was not the taking of pictures, not point-and-shoot cameras, but the capturing of a moment in time via processing – film to negatives, negatives to pictures, and pictures to mantelpieces and memories. They were good at that.
But along came digital cameras and phones with cameras and jpegs. Analogue photography became a piece of nostalgia. And nostalgia turned into something old-fashioned. Old-fashioned became unfashionable. Digital became more (and more) state-of-the-art, and by then Kodak couldn’t get consumers to believe that they could successfully play in that arena, whether they had been there first or not.
BTW, none of this is 20:20 brand hindsight. The Customer Loyalty Engagement Index is conducted in January of each year, providing 12-18 month leading- indicators about category and consumer values. All one need do was take a look at those accurately-measured consumer expectations and they would have had a finger on the pulse on what was driving the imaging category.
And then all would have come into sharp, megapixel focus.