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The emergence of digital technology and unchanging conservatism have made it impossible for Kodak – the symbol of America – to maintain its aura. Kodak’s failure has left many regrets and is a valuable lesson for the media and marketing world.

1. Kodak – American film camera icon

Referring to the film camera industry of the last century, it is impossible not to mention the Kodak brand. For nearly a century, Kodak has been a symbol and has almost monopolized the film camera market. Launched in 1888, George Eastman’s Kodak camera was created to revolutionize photography globally.

Before Kodak cameras appeared, photography required professionalism and complex techniques. However, since Kodak appeared, photography has become much simpler and more convenient. The slogan “You press the button, we do the rest” has taken photography from the realm of only professionals to that of consumers. amateur. George Eastman’s goal was to turn the camera into a tool as universal as the pencil, enabling everyone to record important moments in their lives.

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“Eastman wants the camera to become as universal and easy to use as a pencil,”  said Matty Latteson, former vice president of Eastman Kodak.

In 1935, Kodak launched Kodachrome as the first color film, opening a new era in the photography industry. Born during World War II, Kodak became an important part of history and promptly recorded important events during the war, which later became valuable documents for the world.

Continuing its successes, in 1962, Kodak recorded revenue exceeding 1 billion USD. One year later, the company introduced the Kodak Instamatic camera that integrated outstanding features and sold 50 million units after only 7 years of release. eye. In 1972, Kodak’s revenue reached $3 billion and by 1976, the company dominated the photography market with 85% of the camera sales market share and 90% of the film sales market share. In the 1980s, Kodak had 150,000 employees and was in the top 50 companies on the Fortune 500 list of largest businesses in the US.

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However, Kodak’s prosperity did not last. In the 1980s, although it maintained its market share, the company began to encounter challenges from the rise of digital technology. The emergence of digital cameras and digital photography gradually defeated the traditional camera and film markets, pushing Kodak into a state of decline.

2. The game is changed by digital

In 1975, Steven Sasson – an engineer working at Kodak created the world’s first digital camera. This invention seemed to help Kodak continue to grow and dominate the market, but company leaders refused to change and ignored the potential of this product.

In contrast, Fujifilm and other rival companies quickly adapted and produced digital cameras, resulting in Kodak being pushed back. This was Kodak’s first mistake and also the main cause of their decline.

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When digital cameras became popular, Kodak suddenly ignored feedback from the market and media. It wasn’t until the early 1980s, when they realized this shift, that Kodak began training internally and converting chemical engineers into electronics engineers, investing $2 billion in research and development of engineering technology. digital. However, this strategy is not appreciated and is even considered meaningless. The company’s new products such as the DCS 100 camera or photo CD quickly became outdated, Kodak’s DC 20 camera was considered to take very bad photos…

Kodak, from an industry giant, gradually disappeared. After difficult times, Kodak had to seek bankruptcy protection and undergo a restructuring process. They had to sell non-core parts, stop producing digital cameras and switch to selling camera accessories and photo printing services. The brand also sold off many patents, including digital imaging patents, to retain some of its value and soul.

3. Struggling to save the company thanks to the pharmaceutical business

After many fluctuations, in 2018, Kodak entered the field of virtual currency with the launch of KodakCoin, becoming the first listed company to participate in this market. However, this project did not last long and did not bring many important changes to Kodak.

Luck returned to Kodak at the end of July 2020, when they received a loan of 765 million USD from the US government to produce generic drug materials, supporting the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. This information attracted great attention when both US President Donald Trump and political officials mentioned it on television.

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Although many people see this as a positive step forward for Kodak, a company that was once an American icon, and is re-emerging in a new field, the big question is “Is Kodak really capable of produce drugs? Some analysts even rated this as the “stupidest” decision in American corporate history.

4. Lessons from Kodak’s failure: To be successful, you must always innovate and move with trends

Kodak’s failure is truly a valuable lesson about the importance of innovation and flexibility in business. Despite success in the past, if we do not maintain a creative spirit and are not flexible in facing the challenges of market trends, we will easily fall into a state of obsolescence.

Sleeping on victory is truly a double-edged sword. Complacency and inattention to change can cause a business to lose opportunities and become lost. Failure to properly recognize and respond correctly when the market changes can put a business in a difficult situation, similar to how Kodak gradually died and pushed itself out of the market.

The lesson from Kodak’s half-hearted reform further highlights the importance of facing technological change without hesitation. In an increasingly digital world, adaptability and innovation are key to staying competitive and surviving in the business industry. If your brand does not change, it means you will stand still and be surpassed by your competitors.

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Kodak is just one of many other typical examples of the lesson of failure because of its refusal to innovate according to market changes. Previously, giants such as Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry, and Sony also experienced their golden age before being discontinued. Sony – the symbol of success of “Made in Japan” products associated with many great inventions such as the Trinitron screen, Walkman music player, Playstation game console… However, being conservative and refusing to change and being loyal to The old design language has caused Sony to gradually lose market share when facing strong competition from major competitors such as Samsung and Apple. Motorola and Nokia also had similar stories before disappearing from the market.

Thus, facing challenges and being willing to change is not a safe strategy, but is the key to creating new breakthroughs. Lessons from Kodak, Nokia, Sony, Motorola are a warning to all businesses about the importance of constantly innovating and facing change strongly in order not to fall behind in the technology race. .


Kodak paid a heavy price for its delay in recognition and adaptation. This is a lesson for all marketers and brands about the importance of continuous innovation in a volatile business environment.