Like many, I am sad to see Kodak file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For me, this has extra resonance as I worked for Kodak between 1999 - 2006 and have a great deal of respect and affection for the company and the time I spent there.
It is clear that their failure to successfully transition to a digital company is the cause for their current predicament. Despite inventing the technology for digital cameras, Kodak focused on sustaining their highly profitable film business for far too long and did not focus on developing a viable digital business.
You only have to see the numerous articles in the media to see the fondness and nostalgia that many people have for Kodak. So there is plenty of brand equity that can be used to develop a lean but profitable business.
So, here are some thoughts about how Kodak could survive in the future. These ideas would fundamentally change Kodak's business model but could at least keep the brand alive.
1) Focus on film.
Think of all the iconic photos taken with Kodak film.
It may be niche but if you look around there is plenty of nostalgia for analogue photography. Think of the surge in popularity of Lomography, Instagram and Polaroid film via The Impossible Project. Moreover film is profitable.
2) Re-introduce Kodachrome.
People mourned the demise of this legendary film. The famous Afghan Girl photo by Steve McCurry was taken with Kodachrome. Think of the positive statement of intent that would be made as part of a relaunch of the Kodak brand.
3) Go retro
Fuji have successfully developed high quality retro cameras such as the X100 and there is lots of excitement around the soon to be launched XPro 1. Olympus are about to launch an updated OM digital camera.
Kodak has the iconic Box Brownie and the Instamatic. How about relaunching those with a modern twist?
4) Create a retail experience
There are vey few camera shops that offer an engaging customer experience.
There is an opportunity to develop a new type of photo shop that is an exciting place to go to meet the demands and excitement people have around all aspects of photography.
It could sell camera gear, film, niche products (like instant cameras, classic film cameras, pinhole cameras), a wide selection of photo books and offer inspirational photo walks or classes. Kodak, with the affection that it has with the public is well placed to reposition itself and offer this.
So, just a few thoughts. I might even consider giving up self employment and return to commuting up the M4 if they had the vision to implement some of these ideas.... but perhaps not.