No More “Kodak Moments”


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Kodak is going to stop doing what they were once the first to ever do. No, not produce Kodachrome. They stopped that 10 years ago. They’re stopping the manufacture of digital cameras.

“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 chemicals to make a living. Digital remained an afterthought. Well, it’s not an afterthought any more. It’s more like the actual marketplace.

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 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 its 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 Brand Keys 2012 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, digital Point-and-Shoot camera brands rank as follows:

1. Canon
2. Nikon
3. Panasonic
4. Sony
5. Casio
6. Samsung
7. Fuji
8. Pentax
9. Olympus
10. Kodak

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 capturing 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 and provides 12-18 month leading- indicators about category and consumer values. All one needs 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 the picture would have come into sharp, megapixel focus.

Robert Passikoff
Robert Passikoff, Founder and President of Brand Keys, Inc., pioneered research in loyalty and engagement, creating the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® ,the Sports Fan Loyalty Index® , and the Women's Wear Daily Fashion Brand Engagement Index® . His first best-selling book, Predicting Market Success provides marketers a 21st century perspective on predictive loyalty metrics. His newest book is The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplace.


  1. . . . . Kodak forgot what business they were in. As you point out, enough senior executives in Rochester thought their business was ‘film and chemicals,’ and they kept thinking it long enough that opportunities blew right past them. No group of executives can afford to get intoxicated on their own smoke, and that’s what happened at Kodak.

    But from what I can tell, Kodak’s outcome resulted from a long, painful series of poor decisions, missed opportunities, and bad assumptions. It wasn’t singly the decision not to capitalize on digital. A related blog that I wrote discusses Kodak’s downfall, and might be of interest to your readers: Six Sales Risks that Should Not be Overlooked.


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