Cameras and film have enabled humans to store their memories, frozen in time, and revisit them whenever they’d like for their entire lives. There is, perhaps, no more iconic brand in this industry of capturing moments than Kodak, but the company is proof positive that even on film nothing gold can stay.
A Kodak Moment
A historic giant in the photography industry, Kodak is known for making both film and cameras. Despite many competing brands over the years, Kodak managed to make their name synonymous with a memory worth capturing—a Kodak moment.
However, Kodak is the perfect example of a company that failed to keep up with the times simply out of an attitude that states “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Rather than embracing the digital technology that they actually invented, Kodak has suffered severe impediments by trying to remain in the past.
A Made Up Name Soars and Then Falls
In 1880, George Eastman invented a system of dry photographic plates that greatly simplified the process of taking a photo. Because he liked the letter “K,” Eastman named his company Kodak several years later and set out on an adventure into the photography world that would prove incredibly lucrative—for a time.
A century after its founding, Kodak was a behemoth in film and cameras. In fact, 85% of cameras and 90% of film bought in the United States came from Kodak around that time, and the company was blinded by their massive success.
In 1975, a Kodak engineer developed the first digital camera, but executives failed to see the value of the innovation. They firstly didn’t believe that consumers would ever want to view their pictures on a screen, and secondly weren’t keen on throwing resources behind new technology when their current methods were so successful.
This led Kodak to file for bankruptcy in 2012, though the company did re-emerge, and are now afloat but on shaky ground.
Struggling to Gain Footing
Though Kodak dug itself out of bankruptcy relatively quickly after filing and has moved into the modern era with printing and imaging services, as well as a professional film business, the brand still hasn’t regained its glory.
Major competitors like Fujifilm and Canon are significantly younger than Kodak (both of them having been established in the ‘30s), and they’re also significantly more successful with valuations exponentially higher than Kodak’s.
Leaning Into Nostalgia
As this once-great photography brand works to re-establish itself, Kodak plans to throw its weight behind marketing their new digital platforms, as well as relying upon a nostalgic perception of the company to guide its aesthetic. In fact, a renewed interest in film photography may even assist Kodak in rebuilding.
Even so, 2019 reports that Kodak may be selling components of its business don’t exactly bode well for the company, and speak to a general sense of unrest for the brand. However, some call these reports all hype, and assert that Kodak will not be selling itself off anytime soon. The last time that Kodak appeared on the Fortune 500 was 2015, when it sat at 966 and had apparently posted a loss in profits.
Perhaps nostalgia culture combined with Kodak’s new sense of the digital age will be enough to put this iconic brand back on the map.