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Polaroid pins its revival to brand, product lineup

By Published on .

Polaroid Corp., trying to ignite a comeback after years of brand neglect, is turning to brand building for now and new technology for the long haul.

"The challenge in front of us," said Jerry Noonan, Polaroid VP-general manager who oversees North America, "is to reinvent the instant camera and film business, which for years has been neglected."

BACKBONE IS ADVERTISING

The backbone of the brand's revitalization "is advertising. The second big area is store-level advertising for the impulse nature of the product," Mr. Noonan said. "The third area is new products, which is a bit of a slow process since it takes a while to develop things. But it will help transform the brand of Polaroid."

Throughout 1997, Polaroid is expected to introduce a series of new products ranging from an instant single-use camera to smaller film packs. In 1998, the company is planning to unveil as yet undisclosed advanced technology.

Recent moves have brought in package-goods expertise. Mr. Noonan arrived in August from senior VP-marketing at Nabisco Biscuit Co. In November, Sandy Posa was recruited from Kraft Foods, where he was senior VP-business development, to lead Polaroid's worldwide marketing efforts as exec VP-general manager.

"This company has a fantastic technology base but the company has not done a great job of unleashing that," Mr. Posa said.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, handles creative for Europe, which comprises 33% of worldwide sales. Mr. Posa expects to expand from four European countries to 10 next year, seeking double-digit growth for the region.

NEEDING A BOOST

Polaroid could use a boost. Its U.S. sales have been depressed for years, with instant camera units off 22.2% to 1.8 million in 1995, equaling less than 10% of the total camera market, according to the Photo Marketing Association.

U.S. instant film sales fell 4.6% to 87 million units in 1994, the most recent data available, accounting for less than 5% of the overall film market.

Worldwide sales for Polaroid slipped 3% to $2.236 billion in 1995.

This year, Polaroid upped media spending to $40 million from $9 million in 1995, aggressively backing a campaign from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, that broke last spring.

Goodby created a series of acclaimed humorous spots under the "See what develops" umbrella; two new executions are airing for the holiday season.

NO A.O.R. DECISION YET

The agency was awarded the account on a project basis in October 1995, but Mr. Noonan said Goodby has not yet been officially assigned the account.

"The subject of agency of record is on our docket but not a priority," he said, adding, "We're very happy with our relationship."

Despite a good reception to the advertising, industry watchers say the campaign has not yet lifted the bottom line.

"The commercials are fun to watch and memorable but has it transferred to sales? So far, no," said Michael Ellmann, analyst at Schroder Wertheim & Co. "The media investment could pay, but the aggregate business is still pretty sluggish."

Said Mr. Noonan: "Right now, our challenge is to get people to the shelf."

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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