Interview thoughts 1: Magners & Kodak..

As reported in the prior post, I had an interview yesterday. However, I wanted to write a little bit more about my thoughts on some of the topics that were discussed, as well as linking to some of the source material I was chuntering on about.
Well, first and foremost, Magners.

Let’s look at the line. ‘Time Dedicated to You’. As discussed, I don’t believe this line has had much impact on the brand’s tremendous success. It sounds to me like they came up with the execution/the idea first, then tacked this onto the end of it.

However, let’s consider the market before Magners’ tremendous success. I’ve got a little bit of an inside track here, as one of my father’s clients was Thatchers, one of Magners’ closest rivals. Essentially, there was a two-fold market for cider before Magners. The first was the mainstay of the more traditional ciders such as Thatchers sales, that segment of the market that were liable to be CAMRA members, between the age of 35 to 70, possibly bearded, and definitely the antithesis of lad culture. The second segment who drank cider (and, before Magners, made up the majority of the cider market) were those who used cider predominately as a mixer. In this case, they preferred Strongbow & Black.

Now, Magners has been able to add a layer of sophistication to its offering by effectively turning cider into a long drink, making it far more of a social activity. Though the line appears to be a bit vacuous and tacked on, it does encapsulate the newly created market. I would imagine the creative agency (or indeed, Magners themselves) had the executional idea before anything else.

And indeed, there’s the ultra simplistic approach – Magners were the first brand to actually explain just how the cider making process occurs, and how straightforward it is. Couple that with promoting the youth/Irishness angle in the executions whilst helping to create a new category of drinker emphasises, in my view, why the campaign has been a success. The strategic proposition would undoubtedly have been something along the lines of: “Create a new market for cider drinkers” or something similiar.

Magners managed to change the image of cider as profoundly as the reinvention of Lucozade from a medicinal supplement to a sports drink, changing attitudes to the sector from niche to mainstream. It remains to be seen if this will continue to endure; but one thing is for certain – no other drink is like Magners.

Moving on to Kodak, which was the brand I mentioned that I’d like to work on at the moment (not to mention the Independent, The Economist, Morrisons and others which escaped me at the time). Let’s have a look at their most recent output, an internal video which was intentionally leaked to YouTube:

That piece of work was created by Partners & Napier. More on it can be found here. Thanks again to Jess for pointing it out to me.

The last thing I knew about Kodak’s strapline was that it was now ‘Keep it digital’, which to me seemed rather strange when you consider the amount of cultural capital tied up in the brand. After all, this is the brand which has had songs written about its products and used them to sell it, as well as essentially owning the connection between memories and pictures – the ‘Kodak moment’.

I expressed in the interview that this brand would be fun to work on given the challenges it faces and the amount of cultural capital still tied up in the name. Kodak, I believed, should go after the colour making process – after all, Kodachrome was the first amateur colour film. Surely a base can be built around that?

However, the potential challenge was discussed. Surely Sony could blow Kodak out of the water when it came to owning this colour process? This could be especially problematic, given that they have probably produced the best ad for emphasising colour richness in recent memory.

Perhaps then Kodak could continue to target the Baby Boomer generation, those who grew up knowing the Kodak was a brand leader in the production not only of film, but of cameras as well? I made the suggestion that Kodak could ape 35mill cameras by producing digital versions of them (physically bigger cameras like 35 mill, but with a digital backscreen), perhaps even continuing to produce 35mill cameras while all other manufacturers discard it. However (especially in the case of the latter), this would prove to be an anachronism – effectively giving the company’s photography segment a shelf life of 5-7 years.

That said, the notion of dwelling on your heritage isn’t a wholly bad idea, just so long as it can be expressed in a new way. I feel that the new Old Spice campaign is able to emphasise this both online and on TV:

And Kodak certainly has the background to be able to do this. Check out the Science & Technology section on their website; they should have a vested interest in making sure their colour credentials are underlined. Far more so than Sony’s.

The ‘Keep it Forever. Keep it Kodak’ line is ok, but it doesn’t underline Kodak’s history, nor attempt to give a really thoughtful reason as to why consumers should buy their product – to me, it seems to suggest that the reason Kodak think you’ll want to buy the camera is because you need something which will never change/be reliable. Digital photography is the antithesis of this.

That rather old fashioned approach aside, the company isn’t as antiquated as you may believe; along with the viral, their 1000 words blog is interesting, allowing comments from the outside world (unlike an awful lot of brand blogs, which seem frightened that the consumer will play with/disrupt the brand), and also gets at another inalienable truth, that photos are about telling stories.

However, unlike colour, I don’t think Kodak can effectively ‘own’ this space without seeming like they are harking back to a bygone era and overly targeting the ageing population. Give Kodak owners a reason to feel proud of the product, like Old Spice. They have waited a long time to go/market digital because they wanted to ensure that the colour process was spot on. There’s part of the insight.

Another insight would be that Kodak photos aren’t throwaway, unlike the majority of ‘quick snaps’ that take place with a digital camera. How digital cameras are used vs 35mill is like comparing Internet consumption with TV. It’s just such a different ball-game. It is perhaps why the ‘cameras for purists’ angle could work to some extent – Kodak certainly have the associations to make it work.

However, by emphasising the colour credentials, I’ve learnt something. I didn’t know the extent that Kodak had researched colour, much less that they had developed an alternative to the flat panel display screen, their self luminous OLED. There’s something to shout about, and doesn’t limit the market Kodak go after, unlike ‘cameras for purists’. It’s their patent as well, so they have a real point of difference. I’d organise my thoughts for Kodak around the strategic thought that should “Demonstrate how Kodak’s unique colours allow people to capture their best memories” or something to that effect.

My initial thought for a tagline was something like ‘Memories aren’t disposable’, but I think that doesn’t emphasise the colour aspect well enough, and plays too much on the ‘purists’ angle again.

I take back what I said about the brand in the interview; that they are seemingly doomed – I really think Kodak (if marketed correctly) have a great chance at pushing on in the digital sector, even given the size of the competition. Sony/LG/Panasonic simply don’t have the colour/imaging history that Kodak have. Find a way of exploiting that, and the brand could rise again.

I’m really keen to hear what others have to say about these two brands – any opinions/thoughts?