With the first handheld camera and roll film, Kodak was the brand that taught Americans to take photographs. Founded in 1888 by George Eastmen, it made photography accessible to nearly everybody, becoming a multinational corporation and a brand recognised around the world with its special ‘Kodak moments’ that were the foundation of its dominant position in our culture for more than a century.
On the other hand, it’s also the brand that in 2012 – at the height of the digital era – filed a $6.75 billion bankruptcy, despite actually inventing the digital camera. Sadly, it realised its potential too late.
Now, Kodak is a much smaller company which makes touchscreen sensors and printing technology. But although it’s undergone some drastic changes, Kodak is a brand that’s never gone away completely. In 2014 it appointed a new CMO to figure out how to re-market itself to the world, and we think there are some important lessons to be learnt from Kodak. Read on for how you can apply some of the business’ longevity to your branding.
Kodak Branding lesson 1: Get a great tagline
The 1970s slogan ‘Kodak moment’ doesn’t just come to mind when you’re thinking about the brand. It’s a phrase which has since been incorporated into everyday language – something that even the very best marketeers can only dream of.
Kodak Branding lesson 2: Play on people’s emotions and build trust
The first rule of branding is to gain the trust of your customers. In order to be accepted as a worthy contender in the marketplace, you have to build a relationship with the people buying your products. Having taken care of people’s memories for nearly 130 years, Kodak has a huge advantage in being a longstanding company, but it’s the way in which they’ve always taken a personal approach with their marketing that gives them the edge.
Kodak Branding lesson 3: Learn from your mistakes
We’ve said it before: Nobody’s perfect. Like two of the world’s biggest brands, Apple and IBM, Kodak stepped back from the brink of failure. It re-evaluated what its strengths and weaknesses were, adapted it’s branding accordingly and is currently seeking to re-establish itself as the brand for sharing memories.
Kodak Branding lesson 4: Remain relevant
Any company that exists in these ever-changing technological times will tell you that it’s not easy to keep up. But it is possible to use the digital era to your advantage. In an interview with AdWeek, Kodak’s new CMO Steven Overman said: “In a world suffused with technology, social patterns are changing, and there’s an opportunity to create new products and services…We’re in the middle of a picture revolution. At the same time, the image plays a different role than it used to. Its role is more vital. We use pictures as often as we use language.” The company realised that photography is still about ‘sharing’ and the George Eastman slogan from 1888 (‘You press the button, we do the rest’) could easily be applied to the digital age. New media, with its easy-share options has created more potential ‘Kodak moments’ than ever before. It’s inevitable that branding now extends to social media, which means it’s never been more important to not only update your products and services, but keep on top of your Twitter and Facebook profiles too.
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(Illustration by Matt Varker, Gorilla)