Design & Branding

Branding Fails & Successes: Kodak

Kodak is a brand that has experienced laudable success at the peak of its industry, as well as narrowly escaping complete failure and bankruptcy. How did the brand perception play a role through these transitions?

A company’s outward perception is of course a highly important factor in a consumer’s decision to choose one brand over another. Any affirmative (or negative) reactions come as a result of several key aspects, which contextualise the brand for the public. The objective is to elevate the brand perception to reach maximum potential in the (often flooded) marketplace.

The most effective brand perceptions occur instantaneously within an onlooker – they require the least amount of analysis to determine what is being offered, and whether that product or service is the one for them. The goal with any branding project is to swing this perception as far to the instantaneous positive reaction as possible.

Kodak is a company that has been extremely successful in its time, growing its brand to iconic status in the heyday of the film industry during the 1970’s and 80’s. Every camera user from amateurs to professionals knew and recognised Kodak’s saturated gold colour, and the iconic red ‘K’. The brand was an exemplar of the instantaneous positive reaction amongst its demographic.

By the mid-2000’s the company had begun to suffer dramatically from the inability to evolve with the times. As a former industry-leader in analogue photography, Kodak’s attempt to excel in the digital age continually saw it falling one step behind the likes of Canon, Nikon, and even Fuji Film, who were creating far more relevant products for the changing market. Kodak’s brand perception was deteriorating.

As an attempt to combat the fact that Kodak was now seen to be outdated and outranked by its competitors, they decided to bring their brand into the 21st century with a modern identity that would distance them from their no-longer-relevant film era perception. The logic behind the move made perfect sense, Kodak wanted once again to be known as an industry leader in the digital age, and they established the right kind of visual aesthetic to claim that space.

The problem however, was that simply a “new” look would not be enough to reinvigorate a valuable customer perception of the brand. Whatever potential the new look had, was completely diminished by the fact that by and large, the product still didn’t live up to the expectations that came along with the former Kodak name. As a result, in January 2012 the company was forced to file for bankruptcy. They restructured and appeared a year later with a plan to reclaim their former positive brand perception.

In 2016, Kodak revealed a re-brand once again. The move was to re-instate a version of their 1970’s and 1980’s brand image, with the strategy to leverage a sense of retrospective loyalty that remained within the consumer-sphere for the company’s apex era.

With the move came an automatic positive brand perception among consumers that the company had already built during the most successful period of business. Though it might seem counter-intuitive, abandoning the 2006 “modern” brand image associated with the company's least successful period, and attempting to restore the name to its former glory was the best option available.

Only time will tell whether Kodak now has the ability to innovate and live up to consumer expectations given their second chance at life, and cement their positive brand perception at the top of the industry once again.

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