Eastman Kodak Co.

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In April 1880, George Eastman leased the third floor of a building in Rochester, N.Y., to manufacture the dry photographic plates he had invented and patented. The following year, he partnered with a family friend, Henry A. Strong, to form the Eastman Dry Plate Co. (The company's name changed a number of times until 1892, when the marketer settled on Eastman Kodak Co.) In 1883, Mr. Eastman invented the foundation of the amateur photography revolution, film, and by 1886, the company was selling roll film and holders.

In 1888, the partners trademarked the name Kodak, chosen by Mr. Eastman because it was short and easy to pronounce, and introduced their first camera—a $25 model with 100 film exposures that had to be sent back to company headquarters for processing. The camera was introduced with the slogan, "You press the button—we do the rest." Less than one year after its introduction, more than 13,000 cameras had been sold, and the company was processing 60 to 70 rolls of film each day.

Until 1892, Mr. Eastman served as the company's sole ad creative, using Frank Seaman and J. Walter Thompson Co., both New York-based agencies, as media buyers and advisers. In March of that year, he hired Lewis Burnell Jones, a Syracuse, N.Y., newspaperman, to head marketing.


Mr. Jones helped Mr. Eastman create the company's first ad image, the Kodak Girl. She was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1880s as a wholesome young lady, usually holding a camera and wearing a striped dress. In 1901, the Kodak Girl was introduced in U.K. advertising. Slogans accompanying her in ads included "Don't forget your Kodak" and "Save your happy memories with a Kodak."

In 1900, the Kodak Brownie camera was introduced. The Brownie was a small box camera that eliminated the need for darkroom developing. It made photography accessible to anyone with $1 to spend on the camera and 15¢ for the film. Early advertisements promised that anyone could use the camera.

Brownie packaging featured the creations of Canadian illustrator Palmer Cox—imaginary sprites called "brownies." The camera's ad icon, the Brownie Boy, a good-natured child who loved photography, began to appear in print ads shortly after the camera was launched, and the company organized Brownie camera clubs and sponsored photography competitions for adolescent Brownie users to support the advertising.

Kodak cameras became increasingly popular during World War I, when Kodak's advertisements focused on using snapshots to remind soldiers stationed overseas of home. The emotional value of photos to soldiers was so enduring that Kodak used virtually the same ad—this time the image of a GI looking at a packet of pictures—during World War II.

Between the wars, the Roaring Twenties brought motion pictures to the masses, and in 1923, Kodak made possible amateur motion picture photography with its 16mm motion-picture camera. In 1929, the company introduced its first motion-picture film designed especially for making home movies with sound.

During World War II, civilian access to photographic equipment-as with all consumer goods-was strictly rationed, and by the war's end, the demand was so great that most consumers had to wait while production caught up. By the late 1940s, Kodak was targeting eight distinct target audiences with advertising, from the casual snapshooter (Brownie, Tourist) to the serious 35-mm amateur (Kodak 35, Rentina).

In the early 1950s, Kodak redeployed its marketing to target both consumer and trade markets. Consumer ads read, "Big weekend coming up—time to take those snapshots you'll treasure all your life." Consumer work was done by JWT, while Charles L. Rumrill & Co. handled professional photographic supplies.

Sales of Kodak film were boosted by the marketer's move into TV in 1955, with spots similar to its traditional print ads. In the late 1950s, Kodak began a Christmas campaign with the tagline "Open me first," which the company continued to use into the next decade for its holiday advertising.

Instamatic cameras

In 1963, Kodak launched its first Instamatic camera, which used easy-to-load film cartridges. The launch was supported by a $3.5 million spring ad campaign in magazines and on TV. Two years later, following the success of the Instamatic, Kodak launched a line of Instamatic movie cameras and projectors.

The 1970s marked the beginning of the decline of the professional friendship between Kodak and Polaroid Corp. Polaroid needed color negative materials on a large scale, which Kodak produced. And Kodak needed Polaroid's business to keep its plants running full time. The expiration in 1976 of some of Polaroid's patents on instant film and a 1969 agreement that allowed Kodak to manufacture and market Polaroid-like color film posed threats to the partnership. In 1976, the two went head to head, with Polaroid filing suit against Kodak. Kodak eventually lost the drawn-out court battle and was forced to remove all its instant camera and film products from the market in 1986.

In the meantime, Kodak introduced a new logo, a two-part red and yellow square with the word Kodak, in 1972. Advertising for the Instamatic and film on TV carried the tagline, "Kodak film. For the times of your life."

Kodak began the 1980s with ads that highlighted middle-American life; the theme was "Kodak: America's storyteller." But by the end of the decade, it had switched taglines and used a "True colors" theme for Olympic Games and general advertising.

The 1980s and early 1990s were not good years for Kodak, which was suffered from a series of missteps in the two previous decades. These included its struggles with rival Polaroid, a decision to develop digital photographic equipment before the market warranted it and a misguided diversification into the pharmaceutical industry, which tripled the company's long-term debt. Diversion of resources to nonfilm areas meant that Kodak's core film business lagged just as competition from Japan was heating up.

A new focus

In October 1993, the company hired former Motorola Corp. CEO George Fisher, the first outsider to lead the company. Mr. Fisher took the reins of an organization plagued by more than a decade of declining market share and weak financial performance, and in May 1994, he undertook radical steps to improve the company's financial footing. He sold off Kodak's health businesses to focus on its film and electronic imaging units and pay off its $6.9 billion in long-term debt. In 1995, Kodak cut $50 million from the cost of its film and paper production and reduced production time for key processes. By 1996, Kodak was back on track. (Its stock price hit a record high of $80 per share.)

Ad account consolidation also helped Kodak cut costs. By 1996, the company's agency roster, once numbering 77 shops, was down to four, with JWT (hired in 1992) and Ogilvy & Mather (1994) handling consumer products and UniWorld and Saatchi & Saatchi handling ethnic marketing and professional imaging, respectively. The streamlining left Kodak with $100 million for media spending for 1996, up from $80 million the previous year.

The company's chief marketing officer, Carl Gustin, appointed in August 1995, worked with the agencies to push Kodak's new theme line, "Take pictures. Further," from Ogilvy. The tagline was introduced in 1996 when Kodak launched the Advanced Photo System, a new photographic system. Ogilvy became lead agency for Kodak's consumer imaging business in June 1997, when Kodak finally bid farewell to JWT.

Kodak and Ogilvy began to target younger consumers in an attempt to recover from its losses earlier in the decade, which were exacerbated by trade wars with Fuji Photo Film Co. In 1995, Kodak petitioned the U.S. government for an investigation of anticompetitive trade practices in the Japanese market, including price-fixing. (After a year of investigation, a U.S. trade representative confirmed the existence of trade barriers.)

By mid-1996, Kodak had shed 11,000 workers and $7.5 billion in debt. By the end of the year, the marketer had furloughed another 11,000 employees, blaming increasing losses due to the price war with Fuji. The layoffs helped Kodak reduce costs by $500 million and position itself to focus in 1998 on aggressive marketing in the U.S. Daniel Carp, a 25-year Kodak veteran, was appointed to the new post of president-CEO at the end of 1997.

By 1998, the company was melding digital imaging and increased picture-taking, encouraging consumers to take more pictures by giving them different ways to use their photos. It introduced such products such Picture CD, which allowed pictures on film to be stored on compact discs. Consumers could bring their CDs to retail outlets and print them at in-store PictureMaker kiosks or e-mail them via Kodak's You've Got Pictures partnership with online service America Online.

In 2000, Mr. Fisher left his position and Mr. Carp succeeded him as chairman in December. Kodak continued to use its "Take pictures. Further" umbrella theme, focusing on usage groups and product lines rather than on individual products. At the start of the new millennium, Kodak embarked on a five-year, $75 million youth marketing push via Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, with its Max Flash one-time-use camera as the cornerstone product. The aim was to make everyday picture-taking an intrinsic part of teen socialization. Also in 2000, Kodak began to market its digital suite of products and services to the masses, showing consumers how digital could be integrated with traditional film.

Eastman Kodak Co. had U.S. sales in 2003 of $6 billion, down 6.4% from 2002, and $312.3 million in ad spending, down 5.1%, ranking it No. 99 among U.S. advertisers, according to Advertising Age.

By 2004, Kodak and Sony Corp. were leaders in the U.S. digital camera market, with Sony targeting adults age 25 to 55 and Kodak focusing primarily on women through its EasyShare system launched in 2001. That year Kodak launched an effort with the theme "The best part of photography is the prints" from Ogilvy.

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