2012 has not gotten off to a great start for Eastman Kodak. Three of the company’s directors quit near the end of last year, and word recently emerged that the company was on the brink of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The easy narrative is that Kodak is a classic case of a company blind to the disruptive changes in its marketplace. Like many easy narratives, this one is not quite right.
In the 20th century, Kodak was truly one of the world’s powerhouses. Its rise to prominence began when it launched its affordable Brownie camera in 1900. In the decades that followed Kodak established a dominant position in the lucrative film business, with its “you push a button, we do the rest” slogan demonstrating its commitment to making photography accessible to the masses.
Of course, being a dominant film provider became increasingly irrelevant in light of recent technological shifts. Today people turn to digital cameras embedded in their mobile phones, share pictures over the Internet, and eschew prints altogether.