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Kodak Instagram shot

It’s been an interesting few months in the world of photographic brands. Instagram has just been valued at $1billion while Eastman Kodak is facing bankruptcy.

Ironically for Kodak, photography in our hugely over-photographed society is on the up and not just through smart phones. On a recent trip to the British Museum I lost count of the number of the new £500+ small format mirror-less cameras being toted around.

With the invention of roll film and the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest’, George Eastman made photography easy and widely accessible to the world.

In their 124 year history, the company and the brand grew to global domination, with the release of millions of cameras and accessories, photographic paper, ink, processing machines – bringing the world of memories to life with ‘Kodak moments’.

The once huge Eastman Kodak company is now worth a mere £75,996,383, 12 times less than Instagram and falling.

So what happened to the photo giant? With their vision to make photography simpler, more enjoyable, more accessible and ‘as convenient as the pencil’ and with an abundance of products to support it inside and outside the digital space, why did Kodak not continue to expand and change the way they brought photography to the world? The complete answer is understandably complex. From a brand perspective they were hampered by a strategy that leveraged their considerable patent legacy yet failed to truly unlock the power and potential of their biggest legacy of all – the Kodak brand. Strategically, they appeared blind to the significance of digital imaging at its outset, and they remained blinkered to the potential for social digital media.

It’s fascinating that a two year old app can effectively own the world’s modern take on photography. Integrated with the smartphone and the internet, and intuitively understanding how the world now shares, accesses, interprets and interacts with information, the founders of Instagram saw the future of personal and social photography and made their mark. Ironically, with a square Kodak 120 and Polaroid format!

There was no reason why Kodak couldn’t have been the logical provider of the Instagram experience – in fact it would have been a natural step for the owner of ‘moments’.

We wonder how long it will be before a generation of new consumers will ask – ‘What or who was a Kodak?’ – not knowing that the square picture was the very format of both Kodak 120 film and Polaroid SX70. Both pioneering photographic brands without which Instagram wouldn’t exist!

This article was originally posted on the CRICKET blog: 11 April 2013