Kodak is a name that brings back a flood of memories, especially for those of us born before digital cameras were popularised. Back then, almost every other household had a Kodak Film Camera along with a stock of reels that fell short everytime we needed it the most. But sadly, all of us saw the demise of Kodak during the time when Smartphones and Digital Cameras were introduced and, eventually, the company that helped us capture our childhood was forgotten. In this article we’re going to explore how Kodak went from being our constant companion to just another bankrupt company.
Kodak came into existence in the ‘era of inventions’, the time when the likes of Edison and Tesla were working on inventions of their own. It was the year 1889, George Eastman, owner of the Eastman Dry Plate Company, along with William Walker, an expert in photography, and fellow inventors, Hannibal Goodwin and Emile Reynaud, invented transparent photographic film rolls for mass-production. Now, it was time to develop a business strategy to sell these camera rolls. Eastman adopted the “razor and blade strategy”. The plan was quite simple, sell cameras at an economical price and make money out of the sale of its accessories, i.e., film rolls.
Soon, the technology, aided by the strategy, became very successful and with the dawn of the 20th Century, Kodak saw the advent of its golden era. With the growing popularity, sky-rocketing profits and the fact that Kodak was listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (where it remained until 2004), only one thing could be ascertained, people were simply entranced by the concept of quick and easy photography.
It is said that “all good things must end”, Kodak was no exception to that. The downfall of a 120-year legacy was all but swift. It was the result of a series of bad decisions made by the management over a considerably long period of time. Blinded by greed and pride, the bosses at Kodak failed to recognise the potential in digital photography, a technology that was invented by one of their own employees, Steve Sasson.
Naturally, as the new technology was developed inside their own premises, Kodak was the first to know about it in the year 1975. But they chose to laugh and dismiss it in a flash. It wasn’t too late even after the first ever digital camera was introduced by Sony in the year 1981. An extensive market research conducted by Kodak’s head of marketing intelligence found out that the new technology could prove to be disruptive for Kodak but the company could prepare for that by adapting to the change, to which the management, again, turned a blind sight.
Kodak’s denial continued for almost three more decades, which is evident by the marketing video released by the photography giant in 2007 saying it “wasn’t going to play grab ass anymore” with the new technology. It eventually did introduce electronic cameras but again, didn’t focus on them enough.
Suffice to say, Kodak’s management didn’t want to abandon the profitable camera-rolls business and make a leap of faith towards change, for an incredibly long time even with a bundle of reports and facts urging them to do so. And, thus, in 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy and Eastman’s legacy finally came to an end.
Kodak’s management wasn’t always ignorant to change. As a matter of fact, when Eastman was in charge of the business himself, he made a shift in the entire line of business twice to cope up with the modern times and keep the company thriving, something that the new management clearly and magnificently failed to do.