...and God Created Kodak
Did you ever see that spot where Vinny Pastore beats the crap out of a printer, then gets a Kodak EasyPrint? This is part of Kodak TWO-OH, a bid to cash in on modernity by a brand that's been around since the beginning of time.
CMO Jeff Hayzlett of Kodak, who led the ad:tech opening keynote today, has an inferiority complex. He thinks he's too big. His suits are undoubtedly XXXL, his expressions cup-runneth-over, and his swaggers could alter the course of human minnows in a crowded hallway.
But in the hallowed sanctum, Jeff's big views and irrepressible personality are forcing an old brand to learn new tricks.
Kodak was founded in 1888. Its name was chosen by George Eastman, who picked it because it can't be mispronounced, whatever the language. Good call. More than a hundred years after Eastman developed the first nonexpert camera in New York, 60 percent of revenue is made outside the US.
(Jeff laughs when he thinks about the big brands scrambling to cash in on China. "We've been in China since 1928!" he guffaws.)
Jeff became CMO and VP for Graphic Communications in '06. He emphasizes B2B over direct-to-consumer sales and thinks the best way to innovate is to fly into opportunities with open arms and possibly a corkscrew. For his team of enthusiastic marketing minions (sitting to the sides and in front of me), Jeff has two rules:
- Is anyone gonna die?
- Is it legal?
But the guy isn't merely an unhinged Richard Branson from South Dakota. He thinks about things -- even little things -- nobody else considers.
"We have pictures of every employee from our company [on our website]. They haven't been retaken since they appeared. We're an imaging company, for Chrissakes!" To remedy the situation, Jeff took everybody's security pictures and pushed them on the web.
His first day on the job, he severed a relationship that Kodak's had with the Olympics since 1896. These fast loose days, Kodak's a PGA sponsor. The 26 most difficult holes in the court will be sponsored Kodak Challenge arenas, complete with branded tents and whatnot.
"He's walking up to the Kodak hole," Jeff whispers in the tone of a gameside broadcaster. Loath to leave anything to chance, he even gave cameras to the guys in the MetLife dirigible. Their job: to take LOTS and LOTS of shots of the Kodak golf tents.
Here's what else Kodak's doing to keep up with the Joneses:
- An aggressive focus on digital. The Kodak Gallery, where pictures are shared and archived, boasts 70 million members. It is the second-largest social network in the world.
- Blog outreach. Jeff's not scared of nasty press or naughty talk. It's part of the flame-fanning. Kodak was also one of the first companies in the world to hire a female Chief Blogging Officer.
- Seizing moments of (sometimes manufactured) serendipity. He cited a moment when NASCAR heroes were photographed in Kodak hats. He talked about the Kodak Challenge on Celebrity Apprentice and the Gene Simmons controversy. Sales doubled the week following that episode.
A prickly audience member observes Jeffrey inadvertently plugged Adobe when he glanced at a picture and said he thought it was Photoshopped.
"Sure," Jeff says in response to the kid's accusation. "We love Adobe. We love Photoshop."
But the kid obviously wants to one-up the guy. So he points out Adobe's lighter, more approachable PhotoShop is moving in on Kodak Gallery territory. "Do you plan to go after desktop computing?" he queries.
"We're gonna go after EVERYTHING," Jeff bellows. And the kid -- struck by the statement like a gale force wind, sits the hell down.
Every single digital picture taken today uses Kodak technology, Hayzlett claims. And growth sits pretty at about 10-12% each year. Kodak, as its CMO sees it, remains as relevant today as yesterday.
"Marketers," Jeff observed gravely, "our job is to create tension." And he closes with a throwback acknowledgment to Kodak's own father. "George Eastman said, 'You press one button, we do the rest.' I believe people still want that today."