In the early 1990s Kodak, the venerable photo products company, found itself in increasing difficulties. Despite a long history of pioneering products and dominating the market, the company was up against strong competition, and it also faced rapidly changing new technology. In trying to keep up, Kodak had ventured unsuccessfully outside its core market of imaging, which for Kodak included photography, digital imaging, color management systems, and image and document storage systems. In this digital age most consumers were unaware that Kodak had digital products; rather, Kodak was seen as the ‘‘yellow box’’ company. By 1993 Kodak posted a $1.5 million loss. The company still dominated in film sales, but it was perceived as old-fashioned and out of touch with younger consumers.
The company took several steps to revitalize its image. It created the tag line ‘‘Take Pictures. Further’’ for all of its advertising in order to show consumers the many possibilities available to them in taking and developing their photos. Kodak also turned to the
‘‘Tall Tales’’ was made up of two series of spots, each minimovies of 60 seconds, which ran during 1996 and 1997 on television and at movie theaters. The 1996 series was highly successful, winning a Gold Effie and a number of other awards. In 1997 Kodak followed with a second set of ‘‘Tall Tales.’’
Kodak was founded in 1881 by George Eastman and became a household name and market leader with the introduction of the Brownie camera in 1900, color film in 1935 and, above all, the Kodak Instamatic camera in 1963. Eastman believed in reaching ordinary people, and his mission was to make photography, then a cumbersome procedure, something anybody could do and enjoy. ‘‘You push the button, we do the rest’’ was the Kodak slogan, and it was a tremendous success. It made Kodak far and away the market leader for a century, maintaining a 60-70 percent market share.
When CEO George Fisher took over the reins at Kodak at the end of 1993, his goal was to refocus Kodak on what it does best. He was in a sense returning to the vision of George Eastman but placing his efforts firmly in the context of digital technology—meaning the use of computers and other digital media to create, manipulate, send, and store images. Fisher began selling off the new ventures that had led the company off its path—which had included Sterling Drug, L&F Products (makers of Lysol and related products), and the Clinical Diagnostics division—and refocused the company on imaging.
Kodak’s marketing dilemma was that it had failed to position itself as a digital imaging innovator. Surveys showed that few consumers were even aware that Kodak had digital products. Indeed, as the magazine Sales and Marketing Management reported in early 1997, only very technology-savvy consumers were aware of the range of possibilities for enhancing photographs. During the 1990s, of the 60 million photos that were taken annually around the world, fewer than 2 percent were enlarged, manipulated, hung for display, or used commercially. Most went into a photo album or shoe box.
To resolve this dilemma Fisher created the new position of Chief Marketing Officer and in 1995 appointed Carl Gustin to fill it. Gustin left a position with the computer giant Apple to join Kodak and had also worked for a number of prestigious marketing agencies. Thus, he embodied exactly the talents Fisher sought to position Kodak for the digital age. The marketing department led by Gustin sat atop the business units and created centralized corporate branding and strategic planning. The new system was a dramatic change for Kodak. Whereas formerly each business division had carried out single-product advertising, Kodak changed to system advertising, which was planned through the corporate marketing division.
‘‘Our goal is to go beyond ‘You push the button’ and take customers toward a future where they ‘Take pictures. Further’,’’ Fisher told Sales and Marketing Management. ‘‘But we’ll do this in a way that makes it just as easy to take pictures further as it was to push the button. We want our imaging technology to be easy to use. Consumers want more and better pictures, not technology for its own sake.’’
The ‘‘Tall Tales’’ campaign was directed at three separate and distinct groups. It focused first on parents of schoolage children. More specifically, this group, generally 25 to 55 years old, was college-educated, used a PC at home, often subscribed to an on-line service, and took pictures. The group was also thought to influence the technology decisions of mainstream Kodak consumers who were less comfortable with technology.
A second major focus group was the ‘‘wired generation,’’ adults 18 to 34 years old who were collegeeducated and PC and Internet users. It was thought that this group influenced other young consumers, as well as technology providers. Finally, the campaign focused on business managers and department heads, aged 35 to 64, who might have been part of the decision-making process for technology purchases in medium and large businesses. This group was likely to influence the technology considerations of fellow business executives, managers, and employees. All three groups were considered influential in the ‘‘Information Age.’’
For much of its history Kodak had been without serious competition. However, the company met with new threats to its market position, during the 1970s and 1980s. Companies like
Prior to the ‘‘Tall Tales’’ campaign, Kodak had used single-product advertising, parceling out its $300 million advertising budget among some 200 agencies worldwide. By 1996 Gustin had consolidated these 200 agencies to four: Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, Uniworld, and Saatchi & Saatchi, assigning each to focus on specific products worldwide. In a further consolidation, Ogilvy & Mather became the sole agency for the ‘‘Tall Tales’’ executions, which combined product and image advertising in Kodak’s first-ever corporate brand campaign. The campaign had very specific goals. It sought to position Kodak as a digital technology innovator among those most influential in the Information Age; to develop Kodak brand awareness among the young wired generation, a good number of whom did not own cameras; and to increase awareness that Kodak had digital imaging products for both home and business uses. The point of the campaign, which cost between $20 million and $40 million, was to convince the target groups that Kodak could best help them unleash the power of pictures. Kodak’s products were perceived by consumers as being both reliable and of high quality, and evoked images of family values. On the other hand, consumers also saw Kodak as an old-fashioned and stodgy company that mostly made little yellow boxes of film to capture ‘‘Kodak moments.’’ The campaign sought to draw on the long-held positive values to reposition Kodak as an innovative company more focused on the future than on treasured moments of the past. At the same time, Kodak was concerned that it not alienate its core group of older consumers. In other words, the campaign needed to promise the digital future without abandoning a long and worthy heritage. During the first phase of the ‘‘Tall Tales’’ campaign, buses at the 1996 Olympic Games in
The 1997 series consisted of three ‘‘60-second movies’’ that linked life events with Kodak products. Among the products and services the campaign showcased were the Funsaver single-use camera, Kodak premium processing, Kodak Gold film with color sharp technology, Gold Max film, and Image Magic cropping and enlarging features.
In the first television spot, ‘‘Tattoo,’’ a teenager desires a tattoo. Rather than prohibiting it outright, her mother proposes a compromise: she can photograph her friends’ tattoos, and they will study the results together. The girl uses a Kodak camera to take snapshots of her friends’ tattoos: Mickey’s bulldog, Rachel’s rose, Daphne’s lizard, and Uncle Leo’s faded and indecipherable ‘‘something.’’ That night she awakens screaming from a nightmare in which ‘‘Viva Macarena’’ is tattooed onto her forehead. To her mother’s visible relief, she announces the next day that she has decided to forego the entire project. In another spot, called ‘‘Saturday,’’ a bouncy teenager takes pictures of scenes from an ordinary suburban day. Her bright and colorful pictures of feet, socks, a dog, and a bowl of cereal are fun and offbeat, and unexpectedly a museum curator offers the young photographer $100,000 to exhibit them. She accepts eagerly and basks in the spotlight of instant fame. Finally, in ‘‘Stacy’’ a young man sweeps his girlfriend off her feet with a digitally enhanced Kodak photo, paving the way for the couple’s dreams of marriage and a long life together. Specific network, cable, and syndicated programs made up the television media plan. The airings were planned to reach viewers of lighter television shows and those with an interest in technology and innovation. ‘‘Tattoo’’ had its prime-time debut on the Drew Carey Show on March 12, 1997; ‘‘Saturday’’ made its first appearance also on March 12 on the Fox Network; and ‘‘Stacy’’ premiered on The Simpsons on March 9. ‘‘Saturday’’ was also shown during the Academy Awards on March 24. The broadcast schedule ran May through July 1996 and during March 1997.
Kodak executives viewed the ‘‘Tall Tales’’ campaign of 1996 and 1997 a success, declaring that the campaign had effectively redefined Kodak as a serious player in the Information Age. A 16-country tracking study showed a 3 percent gain in brand equity (or confidence in the brand), which the company attributed to ‘‘re-energizing, rather than abandoning a focus on memories,’’ as CEO Fisher expressed it in a letter to the magazine Advertising Age. The campaign’s commercials of 1996, which won a Gold Effie, registered an ‘‘enjoyability’’ score higher than 97 percent of all spots ever tested by Millward Brown International (MBI). In the category ‘‘uniqueness,’’ ‘‘Tall Tales’’ received the best MBI score ever. Post campaign ad surveys by MBI Ad Trackers found that target consumers had changed their brand perceptions and that Kodak was seen as a more forward-thinking technological innovator after the campaign.
The wired generation also found more relevance in the Kodak brand. MBI found that the perception of the Kodak brand as ‘‘contemporary,’’ ‘‘cool,’’ and, above all, relevant rose by 25 percent in this group. Looking at the target audience as a whole, MBI found increased awareness that Kodak offered a variety of products for home and business users and that Kodak was more than just the ‘‘yellow box’’ company.
The campaign also had an immediate short-term effect on film sales for the second quarter of 1997. Still, despite the positive outlook, many financial experts felt it was too soon to judge the success of the ‘‘Tall Tales’’ campaign and questioned whether customers had truly accepted the company as a digital leader. ‘‘Kodak is in the midst of a long-term transition,’’ Tom Graves of Standard & Poors told Sales & Marketing Management. ‘‘But if Kodak offers innovative, affordable products, it can be accepted as a leader in digital technologies.’’