Re-energising your brand: Lessons from Kodak

Building a brand is an ongoing process that requires consistent monitoring and flexibility in order to yield results. You don’t establish a Fortune 500 company overnight, and if you do make it to that point there is always room for improvement – and the looming threat of becoming irrelevant.

This is especially true for companies that aren’t future-proofed in terms of their product offering. As we know, technology quickly becomes outdated and even stalwarts in the world’s oldest sectors can be blindsided by innovation and the unwillingness (or inability) to adapt to a changing world.

Redundant products aren’t the only threat to the survival or the potential of your business. Competition, dwindling relevance in the media and misperceptions about your brand can mean the end of your innings, at any point.

So, how do you continue with daily operations and still manage and address these risks? Let’s take a lesson out of Kodak’s book on re-energising and future-proofing your brand so that you can continue to build…

Kodak moments

Kodak was one of the nineties’ most beloved photography brands, naturally associated with nostalgia and important moments in consumers’ lives.

As film photography started slowing to a halt, with the advancement and accessibility of digital cameras, so Kodak was impacted and declared bankruptcy in 2012. The truth is competing brands had found ways to stay relevant and loved by a generation embracing Instagram culture. They focused on broadening their product range and on gaining the perception of being cool, while Kodak had some work to do in terms of re-energising their offering.

Instead of going the same way as the Fujifilms and Instax’s of the world, Kodak took the iconic, red and yellow branding it was known for, refreshed it, and joined the nineties revival.

The Koda logo

One of the best decisions Kodak ever made was keeping the retro feeling to their logo refresh in 2016. It had taken them 10 years to rebrand and they put out a logo that arguably looked older than the original. The irony here lies in just how much the “new, old” logo set the tone for their subsequent campaigns.

Kodak streetwear

In partnership with popular retail chain, Forever 21, Kodak launched a 26-piece clothing line to a market of millennials and Gen-Zs who were hungry to tap into the nostalgic styles and overt branding. The collection contained everything from cool, zip-up jackets, to NASCAR-style, bright yellow short-sleeves and heavily branded sweaters, each piece reminiscent of a bygone fashion era.

Kodak found its place in contemporary fashion but decided to take things one step further with the creation of Kodachrome magazine. It’s safe to say there’s still a fascination with film, which is not limited to your average consumer but also involves celebrity photographers, artists and performers. This is how the limited edition journal was born and positioned as a must-have for “people who love art, film and analog culture.”

When Kodak created their magazine, Kodachrome, they priced it high and set a precedence for cool coverage straight off the bat thanks to an endorsement by Chloe Sevigny, who also features in the first issue.

Of course, many perceive her as the epitome of effortless cool and the poster-child for beloved off-beat actresses. The association was very in keeping with what the brand was trying to achieve.

What can we learn from this?

Kodak’s timing is a key factor in their success story. You could argue that it was a bit too late to pivot and that some foresight could have helped the brand avoid bankruptcy in the first place. But realistically, Kodak completely reinvented itself over the course of a few years and cemented its iconic status among a whole new generation, eager to revel in its nostalgia.

The brand is alive, and not only that, it’s thriving under the direction of Danielle Atkins, the chief brand and marketing officer, since April 2015.


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