Kodak Refocuses To Address Younger, Hipper Audience

Is Kodak cool?

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Melissa Korn, WSJ

Move over, birthdays and family reunions. Kodak moments are going clubbing.

Eastman Kodak Co. (EK), the struggling digital camera and printer company, next month will launch an advertising campaign tying its EasyShare cameras to three hot hip-hop recording artists as the company attempts to boost its cool quotient. Dubbed “So Kodak,” the television, print and online spots will show Drake, Trey Songz and Pitbull taking pictures with Kodak’s cameras, then posting the shots to their social networks with one-button ease via the devices’ “share” button.

Kodak has for years aimed its camera advertisements at busy moms, running spots with cute kids and puppies and showcasing easy-to-use devices. With such iconic taglines as “Share moments, share life” and “It’s time to smile,” Kodak is known for its warm-and-fuzzy approach to capturing special events. Even recent commercials touting the cameras’ social media savvy feature a newborn baby.

This campaign is a major departure, opting instead for velvet ropes and strobe lights. Kodak tried to show its edgy side beginning a couple of years ago by appearing in episodes of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” but the orchestrator of such activities, outspoken marketing chief Jeffrey Hayzlett, resigned in May. The company

hasn’t yet named a replacement.

A key to the campaign’s success will be if it can connect with the younger, more diverse audience that listens to the pitchmen’s music and sees online social networking as a fundamental element of communication.

“This breaks away from that stodgy reputation that they might have,” said Dean Crutchfield, chief engagement officer of brand agency Method. Crutchfield, who doesn’t work with Kodak, called the campaign “groundbreaking” and “past due.”

In an era when Kodak moments are just as likely to be captured on a smartphone as a camera, Kodak has struggled to re-establish itself as a leader in the imaging world. In the 1960s and 1970s, Kodak produced enough Instamatic cameras to supply one out of every three Americans. Now, company executives acknowledge it could be considered a potential takeover target.

Kodak isn’t the only camera company turning toward the radio to find its next hit. PLR IP Holdings LLC’s Polaroid, another former photography powerhouse that has faced financial troubles, earlier this year signed pop megastar Lady Gaga as creative director for a specialty line of products.

Kodak declined to say how much it’s spending on the advertisements, though Leslie Dance, vice president of brand marketing and communications, said it’s “comparable” to the “Print and Prosper” campaign used for a line of inkjet printers last year. The company spent $30 million for that, according to people familiar with

that campaign. Kodak spent $33.1 million on U.S. advertising in 2009, according to Kantar Media, down from $100.3 million in 2005.

With the new campaign, Kodak says it is embracing a definition of its brand that already exists in the urban market, one that makes it synonymous with “cool.”

“For young, primarily urban, consumers…the term ‘Kodak’ refers to the state of mind that one has when he or she feels that they are looking their hottest or when they are socializing in a place or with people that are considered hip or popular,” Vincent Young, Kodak’s marketing communications director, wrote on the company’s blog last week.

However, not everyone agrees with that definition.

The word “Kodak” is defined on Urban Dictionary, an online compendium of street slang, as “outdated” and “irrelevant,” among other unflattering things.

“Come on, guys. There’s no way that Kodak’s cracked the cool factor,” Crutchfield said. Still, “this is the kind of campaign that can get you some cool factor.”

Kodak notes that the three artists, with songs like Pitbull’s “Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)” featured in the campaign, have more than 10 million Facebook fans combined. Their strong online presence, including Twitter accounts, suggests a following deeply involved in social media, an audience Kodak believes would benefit from its “Share” button.

“The demographic is loyal to the artist,” said David Allan, associate professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, who has studied the use of music in marketing. “They’re hoping that will translate into loyalty to the brand.”

Author: Dean Crutchfield

In an award-winning career spanning two decades, Dean Crutchfield has created, built and re-invigorated some of the world's most iconic brands.

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