The Perils And Payoff Of Changing A Brand


One reason Kodak has changed was the invention of the digital camera in 1975. It changed everything about taking pictures: no film, no developing, and no waiting. Kodak stopped short of fully embracing the new technology, even though the guy who invented the digital camera was a Kodak employee.

"Many companies have these kinds of inventions," Trout said. "'Cause they're very bright people … And guess why it — they never get anywhere? Because they challenge the mother load. Now, this guy's invented something which is gonna undermine film. Do you think that's a happy idea inside of Kodak? No, sir."

Whatever the thinking was at Kodak, digital photography took off and Kodak's share of the photo business began to fade.

The turning point at Kodak came in 2004 when the CEO told investors in the world's pioneer film company that "film was in secular decline." Translation: make the transformation to cutting-edge digital technology or die.

Kodak finally got the message: the company is now in its third year of a transition to digital technology. These inkjet printers are only a fraction of a new product line that includes an array of digital cameras. Making the change has been painful: more than 24,000 jobs have been eliminated so far, but the company has learned to live with the new reality.

An in-house release called "Winds of Change" is a video pep talk for Kodak employees. For one of America's most iconic companies, it's a clean break with the past. Even the attitudes here are "new and improved."

"People want more digital things…ways to bring their pictures into the 21st century," the actor on the video says. "Well, Kodak is doing it. You thought they were just hiding out waiting for this digital thing to blow over, didn't you?"