Learning from Kodak’s failures.

graphic design - kodak logo

Kodak, which was founded by George Eastman in 1889, had in 1976 a market share of 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the United States. The company hasn’t made a profit since 2007, and it declared bankruptcy in January 2012.

The letter “K” was Eastman’s favorite letter, and the name “Kodak” followed his three main branding principles: the name should be short, simple enough so as not to be mispronounced, and it could not resemble anything or be associated with anything else.

Now Kodak is completely exiting the consumer photo and camera business, while trying to unload an extremely profitable chunk of its massive patent library with hopes of obtaining a financial boost from any settlement payoffs over patent infringement lawsuits against Apple and Research in Motion. If all of this works out, the company will most likely focus exclusively on digital printing as a business-to-business company, competing directly with Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Lexmark, among others.

Kodak’s story is not unique, and it will be certainly followed by other companies who fail to react and adapt to market changes. Kodak’s failure is really a life lesson: define the essence of who you are and what you do (tell visual stories, for example), and not what you sell (film or 5×7 prints); don’t get too comfortable with what you know and do well; never settle, constantly push your comfort zone, and challenge yourself. Remember to talk to people who disagree with you, and listen to their reasoning. And most important, be open to new experiences and opportunities.

The glass is always half full AND half empty. It’s up to you to decide how to look at it.