Naming and Branding Agency

Kodak launches digital photography re-branding campaign

Kodak’s hometown newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, reports a long overdue case of photosynthesis:

…The company today will let loose a torrent of advertising — online, in movie theaters, in print, on television and outdoor billboards — designed to establish Kodak’s credentials as a high-tech innovator in the world of digital imaging…

…Kodak is now rated as the world’s 62nd most valuable brand, compared with 27th five years ago. “Only dominant in a film business that shrinks every year,” the 2004 rankings said about Kodak.

The new campaign aims to reverse that perception by presenting Kodak as a diverse provider of state-of-the-art digital imaging products and services useful to many different industries — not only consumer photography. Establishing Kodak as a technology company is “table stakes” in the fiercely competitive world of consumer electronics, said Betty Noonan, director of brand management and marketing services at Kodak…

…At the same time, Noonan said the company knew it wanted to do no damage to the traditional attributes attached to the Kodak name — trust, quality, technological simplicity. Consumers in focus groups repeatedly told Kodak that its brand “was the kind of brand they could bring home to dinner,” Noonan said.

If only they were selling buckets of chicken…

This is all well and good, but there is a very specific strategy that Kodak needs to follow. There are basically three factors that determine digital image quality — megapixels, lens quality and the on-board image processor. Consumers first fixated on megapixels, an easy shorthand when shopping for a digital camera. The equation became “how many megapixels for how much money?”

A terrifying equation for the high-end manufacturers, it is a battle easily won by the low-end producers. Keen to shift the conversation away from megapixels, Nikon and Sony responded by talking about lens quality, Nikon talking about Nikon manufactured lenses and Sony through a co-branding effort touting their “Carl Zeiss® Vario-Tessar® lens”. Kodak needs to partner with a legacy lens crafter to break even on this one, but it’s the third leg, the image processor, that they can leverage and own.

Kodak has a rich history and extensive brand equity around the idea of image processing, they can make the connection from past to present and take possession of the one key aspect of digital photography that is up for grabs on this simple concept. The jump from image processing to branding an image processor within a camera is a small and simple one, and like lenses, it can’t easily be quantified with a simple number like megapixels. It’s the kind of fuzzy area where their brand can reign supreme.

And finally they need to abandon the positioning strategy point of “simplicity”, of being our guide in the complicated world of digital photography. That day has come and gone and the public no longer sees this realm as complicated. While the strategy worked well for AOL in the early days, as consumers became more savvy “simplicity” quickly came to mean “stripped down, unsophisticated and limiting”.

The idea of pushing simplicity and stewardship seems more a reflection of the ennui and uncertainty inside Kodak that made it late to the digital ball in the first place, rather than an accurate reading of consumer zeitgeist.

Kodak may indeed be the type of brand we’d “bring home to dinner”, but if they want the relationship to get more interesting, they need to realize that nothing is sexier than confidence.

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