ROCHESTER, NY: Kodak's move to realign its business focus mostly toward high-end digital-printing technology instead of its traditional film business has as much to do with the company's image as it does the company's future.
Kodak recently announced that it would focus more on digital technology and less on conventional photography. Communications will play a significant part in educating the public about Kodak's past role in developing such technology, as well as its plans for the future. Kodak's AOR is Ketchum.
"We are not new to digital technology," explained Mike McDougall, worldwide PR manager for Kodak's digital and applied imaging division. "In 1976 we invented the first digital camera. In 1994, we introduced the first digital camera under $1,000. We have led this space for years."
But the printing space has become considerably more crowded and competitive, with Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Fuji among the major players.
"We plan to hammer home the ease-of-use message," said McDougall. "We've always been about ease of use. And more and more companies are trying to make cameras that are easier to use."
Kodak plans to leverage its brand equity, and McDougall pointed out that the company's brand is also focused on sharing pictures, not just taking them.
"This market can be confusing for consumers," he said.
"We want to show that we are still the leader, and that we are the brand consumers can trust."
But investors don't necessarily trust Kodak's move away from its core competency, even as evidence mounts that consumers are beginning to turn away from traditional film photography at a notable rate. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that a group of high-profile investors, concerned that Kodak could face tough competition in its drive toward digital, are teaming up to nudge Kodak into pushing back its plans, and perhaps shake up management.
Anthony Sanzio, Kodak's director of technology PR, declined to talk about specific plans to address investors, only to say that Kodak maintains "an open dialogue with investors, and we will discuss our strategies with them."