How Kodak's history has boosted its future

Danielle Atkins: drawing on Kodak's rich heritage
Danielle Atkins: drawing on Kodak's rich heritage

Kodak has slowed down its decline by reminding consumers of its heritage and going big on experiential marketing in order to "crystallise" its brand vision.

When Danielle Atkins joined Kodak as vice-president of brand and marketing in 2015, the brand was no longer resonating with audiences. It was struggling to keep up with the changing consumer landscape, and had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.

Fast-forward three years and the outlook is not as bad as it has been, with Kodak’s latest full-year financial results showing a 7% decline in revenues at $1.5bn. The brand may not be back to making the fortunes of its heyday, but Atkins is turning to its heritage to remind consumers that it was once front of mind when it came to art, film and photography.

"It seemed like a massive opportunity to bring back an incredible brand that had lost its way and forgotten that it was a big brand, and a consumer brand," Atkins says of her decision to leave her previous job running EMEA marketing for Beats by Dre to join Kodak, when she speaks to Campaign from her pal Warren Johnson’s (owner of PR agency W) office in Soho.

Atkins set about identifying who the brand should be targeting and came to understand that its core audience is those in creative fields – people who look to Kodak when they want to buy a camera, printers, papers and everything else that is "inherently creative".

"We’ve developed our thinking in terms of what the brand means and who we’re talking to and who the brand really speaks to," she says. "We identified that creative generation as being our core target audience. So Kodak has always made tools that enable creative people, but I think what we’ve been doing is presenting that in a very sterile way."

Creative approach

So how did Atkins work to change the brand’s marketing? "When you’ve got limited funds you’ve got to be really creative in how you go about it and I think that’s where the innovation really lies. That’s where you get some of the most disruption in terms of both business model and marketing model and behaviour," she says.

With this in mind Atkins explains she "didn’t have the luxury" of going down the usual route of working with a branding agency to help create a strategy and vision. What Kodak did have, however, was a "rich narrative with this history that had essentially been stripped out of the brand in 2007 that we went back to".

Atkins was keen to bring back the red and yellow logo following research carried out by her team to look at what assets Kodak did have. "The first thing we did was bring back the famous red and yellow iconic logo," she says. "That was very intentional because it was so recognisable, so much part of the fabric of the marketing culture for so many years, so much part of the fabric of many high streets for many years."

Atkins explains that this strategy of delving into the brand’s heritage was first executed – with the help of Jack Morton Worldwide – on the creation of a stand for one of the biggest printing trade shows – Drupa 2016, an event where Kodak and many other brands spend a hefty chunk of their marketing budgets.

But for Kodak the need to stand out from the crowd was greater than ever – the event was the first since the negative buzz around its financial troubles. By creating the "Kodak Quarter", filled with newsstands, cafés, a mini-mart and a gallery, Atkins helped the brand’s Print Services arm achieve 187% of its sales target.

All about the experience

She says that the experiential part of the marketing strategy helped "crystallise our brand vision". After the success of the Drupa event, which picked up Best B2B Brand Experience at the Event Awards last year, Kodak and Jack Morton Worldwide rolled out several other activations including the Kodakery pop-up in Soho.

Atkins adds the journey has also taught her that there is no need to work with retained agencies. "We’ve demonstrated how the industry is changing in that it’s better as a brand to work with specialist boutique agencies to iterate on things that you can’t do in-house, but then to take that specialism back in-house.

"For example with the logo they [Work Order, a New York-based boutique agency] worked with a very extensive design project but once we’d got a system we took that back in-house. In the case of Drupa that was a very big event but it was focused on a specific moment."

Atkins’ energy – she was in training for a Cornwall to France bike ride when she spoke to Campaign – is clearly what a brand like Kodak needs, but there is a lot more work to do if chief executive Jeff Clarke is to turn the business into making profit again.

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