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Kodak's brand continues to rank among the strongest in the world. That's one reason Rance Crain's commentary "Capturing the Kodak moment fast becoming a sad memory" (AA, Nov. 24) is not justified.

Our 16-country tracking study shows a 3% brand-equity gain for 1997 vs. '96. We achieved that not by abandoning our focus on "memories" but, rather, by re-energizing it. Indeed, just as our "Daddy's little girl" spot was right for the '80s, our "Tall tales" commercials are now endearing audiences with new-millennium-style charm and magic.

In audience research, these Gold Effie-winning commercials registered an "enjoyability" score higher than literally 97% of all spots ever tested by Millward Brown International (MBI). For "uniqueness," "Tall tales" garnered the best MBI score ever.

And while our advertising and product mix now includes digital imaging products, traditional types, such as film, cameras and photographic paper, remain Kodak's lifeblood. In fact, traditional products account for 27 of the 34 products Kodak announced at the most recent Photo Marketing Association exhibition. Digital products account for the other seven.

Moreover, we increased our advertising spending for traditional products considerably over the past 18 months.

This will not surprise regular Kodak watchers. They know that, since his first day at Kodak, CEO George Fisher has professed that traditional and digital imaging will absolutely co-exist.

George also has consistently articulated Kodak's mission in a single phrase: "Our business is pictures." He realizes consumers care about memories, and that the mode of picture-taking simply is a means to an end.

George is our brand champion. Research shows we gained more than 4 points in brand equity in a single year of his tenure. Cutting film prices wouldn't even enter his thinking if doing so would jeopardize the Kodak brand in any way. Indeed, we've limited reductions to selected SKUs.

Final point: Kodak's separation from J. Walter Thompson. We didn't take that decision lightly, given our long association together. JWT had produced award-winning work for Kodak, but many of the people responsible for it over the years had moved on. We needed to move on, too.

Those who closely follow Kodak know that fact-and the others stated above. Since Mr. Crain may not observe Kodak on a continuing basis, it's possible he simply may have missed these facts.

Carl E. Gustin

Chief marketing officer-senior VP

Eastman Kodak Co.

Rochester, N.Y.

Thank you for Rance Crain's recent column on Kodak. I have not read a more articulate assessment of the mess George Fisher and Carl Gustin have made of that once-brilliant brand.

For two years, I was in the eye of the storm as worldwide management director on the Kodak business at J. Walter Thompson Co. I watched with horror as Mr. Gustin unraveled what was built up over the previous 65 years. It became automatic for him to reject anything that harkened to the wonderful, emotion-filled past of Kodak in the name of leading it to its "hip and cool" future.

But, worst of all, he eschewed any direct consumer feedback that may have contradicted his vision.

Only by regularly talking to and monitoring the needs, wants and desires of the consuming public and their attachments to a brand can we protect the integrity of those brands.

Peter Mackey

Managing director

Greenfield Consulting Group

Westport, Conn.

Note: Mr. Mackey was JWT's worldwide management director on Kodak from 1995 to 1997.

Rance Crain's comments are right on target. One additional observation: Kodak is in the memory business, but as long as I have old shoe boxes full of "memories" they're not serving their customer.

The success in the memory "business" is right around the corner-to companies that are providing these memories where they are enjoyed, [such as] through downloading photos via the Internet, pre-determined photo-album-ready sheets, etc.

While Kodak was busy focusing on Fuji, digital cameras and other distractions, they took their eye off what business they are really in-cleaning out my shoe boxes.

Doug Clopton

Hershey Chocolate USA

Overland Park, Kan.


In "McDonald's launches local ads for rival to Burger King's Whopper" (Jan. 5, P. 8), the offer of free McDonald's french fries during January is limited to about 450 restaurants in the Chicago and northern Indiana areas.

In "Direct mail, `clubs' grow in baby-product marketing" (Dec. 8, P. 20), Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s Murphy's Oil Soap has included coupons in Carol Wright's co-op mailings but not mailings targeted at families with infants.

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