A Kodak Moment Come and Gone

Keep it forever. Keep it Kodak.
Keep me. Protect me. Share me.

I want to be fair, but at the same time focus on reality. “Keep me. Protect me. Share me.”—along with the other tagline above—were the words Kodak chose as the theme of its 2005 ad. What a shame it didn’t see past this excellent campaign to the company’s next gigantic breakthrough. As this tale shows, having one idea is enough if you know what to do with it.

Arguably one of the most venerable and cherished brands ever, Kodak, after all, was the company that invented the first functioning consumer film camera in 1888. Its dry, transparent and flexible photographic film began the production of “rolled photography film.”

In 1986, Kodak invented the world’s first megapixel sensor, capable of recording 1.4 million pixels that could produce a 5×7˝ digital photo-quality print. Commonly known today as a digital camera.

Many would argue that both of those technologies were world-class breakthroughs on the order of the personal computer or the automobile. What strikes me as truly incredible is that the above television ad Kodak commissioned in 2005 had the embedded idea of storing photographs in a “gallery” and if someone had just thought one step further, the company could have captured the digital online storage market segment.

And yet, even with more than a 100-year head start providing a tail wind, Kodak was unable to steer a course into the future. Watch the ad and decide for yourself. How smart and close was it, and yet how far away from executing the next big idea?

We’ve all benefited from Kodak’s remarkable inventions and use them every day. Those of us in the strategy business should take note and learn from both the successes and failures of this awesome company.

Tom Marin is the president of MarketCues, a national consulting firm. Tom serves as a senior advisor and change-management consultant with 35 years of experience. He has worked for some of the world’s largest corporations, as well as middle-market firms. Tom's focus is to plan and drive strategy shifts and strategic growth programs in the printing industry and a diverse range of market areas.
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