Paul Holmes 30 Apr 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
The July 2000 cover story of Forbes magazine described the Eastman Kodak Company as undergoing a transformation from “film dinosaur” to “digital powerhouse.” In this effort to redefine itself in the new economy, the company is investing heavily in digital cameras and other new imaging technology, yet its primary revenue stream continues to come from film. This dichotomy represents the biggest challenge facing Kodak in the new century, and also means that consumers have choices to make as well. While many have eagerly accepted digital technology, a majority are still comfortable with the film they have grown accustomed to over the past 100 years.
In 2000, Kodak set out to launch a first-of-its-kind product that illustrates the convergence of film and digital and marries the best features of these worlds – the Advantix Preview camera. The Preview, an Advanced Photo System (APS) camera, offers high quality prints from film yet borrows a key benefit from digital technology – the ability to view a photo immediately after it’s taken. Another unique feature of the camera is the ability to place your photo-finishing order right on the camera after each photo. Users can view each shot and determine whether to receive 0-9 copies. This was a feature that was always inherent in the APS system (along with the other benefits such as choice of picture sizes, index prints and drop-in loading), however without the Preview screen, it could not realistically be put to use.
After its introduction in early 1996, the APS system garnered significant attention with consumers and the media, and by year-end 1997, penetration figures had doubled. However, the initial rate of adoption quickly slowed and there was only a 25% increase from ‘97-’98, followed by nearly flat figures from ‘98-’99*. The Preview offered us the perfect platform to showcase Kodak’s innovation as well as renew interest in the APS system. We feel this program is award-worthy not only due the tremendous amount of favorable media coverage it generated, but because we were able to successfully straddle the often conflicting line between the traditional and digital worlds of photography, expand awareness of the APS category and, ultimately, use the resulting coverage to help reaffirm Kodak’s leadership position.
Kodak conducted research throughout the two-year development of the Preview in order to gauge consumers’ interest in such a product. While other imaging companies shied away from creating this product -- believing it to be too complicated for average consumers -- Kodak’s research proved otherwise. In fact, consumers cited the new preview feature as the most exciting development in imaging since the zoom nearly 20 years ago. Focus groups of the target audience (women 25-55) showed that the Preview alleviated their number-one concern -- whether they “got the shot.”
Other studies indicated that the camera would appeal most to consumers who were intimidated by digital technology. One potential pit-fall was also illustrated by the research: if consumers perceived the camera as being marketed as a digital camera, they would feel mislead and dissatisfied with the product.
In developing our strategy and tactics, our objectives were as follows:
Utilize the Preview to showcase Kodak’s innovation in both traditional and digital imaging and its leadership in “building a bridge from film to digital.
Excite and educate consumers about digital and traditional photography products/services that make picture taking easier, more enjoyable as end produce better results.
Utilize the first-of-its-kind Preview as a “halo” to revive interest in and awareness of the entire APS category and re-communicate messages about APS features and benefits.
In addition, it is important to note that the advertising campaign for Preview was not slated to begin until spring of 2001due to limited availability, so we knew PR would be alone in getting the word out.
The research helped us determine which tactics to employ. First, we felt confident that consumer enthusiasm would translate into media interest, giving us justification for launching the camera solely with PR. The consumer feedback citing that this camera was the biggest news since the zoom gave us the assurance that we could raise the bar on the types of media we targeted. Newsweeklies, wire services and business reporters were included on our press list with the intention of making the story relevant to them by highlighting how the Preview represented the overall convergence the imaging industry was undergoing. Two, we knew that a press release and product photo wouldn’t cut it in terms of underscoring the unique qualities of this camera – we needed to give media a firsthand experience. Third, the data illustrated the need to craft clear and concise messages for each media audience - business, tech and consumer. Lastly, we also needed to consider some challenges:
Overcoming potential stumbling blocks in communicating with skeptical tech media (was this a defensive effort to save film?) as well the general consumer media (who could easily be either confused or put off by what appears to be just another digital camera from Kodak.)
As the Preview was only going to be available in limited quantity in for holiday 2000, and as camera inventory was scarce due to high retail demand, we were allotted only 20 cameras for the entire effort.
We overcame these challenges in the following ways:
This product required us to approach two vastly different media categories – tech and consumer -- and still make the story resonate. Therefore we developed clear, concise messaging that highlighted specific benefits such as assurance of “Did I get the shot?,” but also the number of patents behind this Kodak innovation. In addition, we media-trained our spokesperson to be able to easily switch gears -- preparing him for the potentially “tough” questions from tech and business media and underscoring the importance of relating the cameras’ benefits directly to a given consumer outlet’s audience (parenting, men’s, etc).
Lastly, we had to choose launch tactics that allowed us to give as many media as possible a first-hand demonstration of the camera. While we would have loved to be able to provide a loaner camera to all top-tier media on our list, we knew this wasn’t realistic given the constraints on production models.
While we had already begun the “buzz” among the industry and trade press by announcing the camera at a major trade show in February, and distributing a teaser to long-lead magazines, it was time to officially announce consumer availability. We reached media via two-tiered approach that allowed us to explain and demonstrate the camera to media both near and far:
One-on-one meetings – In person meetings with the product manager who helped develop the Preview camera were offered to top-tier media targets in New York City. Over twenty meetings were arranged, including AP, Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times, Bloomberg Radio, CNNfn and Parade.
Virtual presentation – We offered all media whom we could not meet with personally a “virtual presentation” -- a simultaneous web cast and conference call that media in varying time zones and geographic locations could attend. The live format allowed for a demonstration of the camera with supporting visuals and for an instant messaging Q&A session online. In total, 18 media attended and numerous others requested the replay.
We supported both these tactics with a comprehensive press kit which was given out during all in-person meetings, sent to those who attended the virtual presentation, and also used in a broad mailing to those media not reached through either method. The kit contained a press release, product photo, brochure, “How it Works” demo sheet and an overview on Kodak’s other Advantix cameras.
Post-launch media activities included following up with all media to offer loaner cameras. Loan arrangements were made with nearly 50 different media in two months. We also targeted local television and holiday gift guide coverage by including the Preview in our ongoing news bureau tactics such as live media tours, SMTs, VNRs and mailings.
To date we have received 132 million media impressions. In addition, our broader objectives were met:
We used the Preview to showcase Kodak’s leadership and innovation in both traditional and digital imaging.
Articles in such high-profile publications such as Time, Newsweek, New York Times “Circuits,” Wall Street Journal Europe, DigitalFoto and Popular Photography enabled photo-industry heavyweights as well as Wall Street influencers to view a credible third-party endorsement of Kodak’s innovation. Much of this coverage was leveraged by Kodak executives at industry events/trade shows and speaking engagements with a fast-moving presentation displaying the breadth of coverage in a dynamic way. These articles were also used to create excitement and pride within the organization via Kodak’s newsletter reaching 80,000 current and retired employees.
We excited and educated consumers about digital and traditional photography products/services.
Coverage in such mainstream consumer publications such as Parade, Men’s Journal, Modern Bride, Parents Expecting and Rolling Stone as well as extensive TV coverage (“The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”) demonstrated directly to Kodak’s target audience how easy and fun the camera was to use. In addition, the Preview was selected to be featured on Oprah’s website. In the week following the segment, over 16,000 viewers visited the page, which featured a description, photo and a link to Kodak.com. Kodak data shows that more than 1,500 of those viewers clicked through to the Preview portion of Kodak.com.
We helped sustain interest in the APS category.
There was little to no advertising and marketing support around the APS system in 2000 (aside from product specific ads from manufacturers). Our Preview efforts represent the majority of media coverage on the system and much of it highlighted the features and benefits of APS. Awareness measures show that 79% of consumers recognized the APS system at year-end 2000, compared with a low of 63% earlier in the year, with much of the up-tick taking place during the last three months of the year, simultaneous to our launch efforts.
*Specific numbers and research documents substantiating certain data are not included due to proprietary nature of the information.