Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, November 11, 2016

That Kodak Momentum.

Kodak has become the poster-child for bad incumbent management. We all know the story. They controlled 90% of the film and camera market in the mid-1970s but were ultimately "disrupted" by eight people working at a start-up called Instagram.

Of course, that's nonsense if only because it overlooks the thousands of people involved in the creation of phone and internet infrastructure without which Instagram has no business and the fact that Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975.

As for disruption, Clay Christensen puts an interesting slant on the received wisdom and points out that Kodak invested $8billion trying to get digital photography right. Yes, there were mis-steps like the focus on cameras, but to criticise Kodak management alone is to forget that the market has to be ready for an innovation.

What job does photgraphy do for the person in the street? It's not an easy question to answer. A repository of memory perhaps? In the days before digital, you took your photos, you had the film developed and you looked at your disappointing results. Once. Maybe twice. And then they resided in a drawer - as they still do today. Not doing their job. Or any job for that matter.

At some point in the past, Kodak got closer to the truth when they started to offer double prints for the price of one. The examination ritual continued to be played out, but the user also had the opportunity to give/mail a print or two to a loved one.

In doing so, he or she was able to tell the recipient that they were thinking of them and this was what they'de been doing even though they didn't have the time or inclination to write them a letter. Analog Facebook was born.

Many years later, new technology allowed the job to be done seamlessly and unthinkingly and Kodak's goose was cooked. The job to be done had been distilled and the identified user need could be addressed. That's the real lesson. And the fact that I used the word unthinkingly makes me wonder if that might mean the seeds of its disruption is already built in to the latest solution. Time will tell.


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