Apple Vs. Kodak: The Rules of Adaptation & How Branding Saved Apple and Doomed Kodak

Here at CI-Group, a New Jersey advertising agency and marketing firm, we come across several different companies who ask us, “Why do some campaigns or companies fail, where other’s succeed?” We like to talk about the comparison between two giant companies in their respective spaces, Apple vs.Kodak, and how branding saved Apple and doomed Kodak.

apple-vs-kodakTwo iconic American companies, two key moments in their histories that forever changed them:

  • After helping to invent the personal computer market in the early 1980s, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs left his company in a power struggle. But John Sculley didn’t have the vision to chart Apple into the future. The company was foundering when Jobs came back in the late ’90s, and Apple is now the most valuable company on the planet.
  • After helping to invent the personal consumer camera market and dominating it throughout most of the 20th century, Eastman Kodak had a chance to put its brand front and center on the world stage with sponsorships for the 1984 Summer Olympics. But it passed, Fujifilm was more than happy to take those spots, and that was the beginning of years of decline for Kodak, which has declared bankruptcy and is now out of the consumer digital photography market.

Two defining moments for two made-in-the-USA business stories. So how did branding help Apple and doom Kodak?

In the case of Apple, the story begins and ends with Jobs, a technology industry leader whose real strengths were not in engineering and coding, but salesmanship, marketing and design. Jobs was famous for eschewing marketing focus groups; Apple was in the business of telling consumers what they wanted, not the other way around. And indeed, we didn’t know we craved iPods, iMacs, iPhones and iPads until his company produced and marketed them.

Jobs knew where the digital trends were heading regarding media and content. He envisioned Apple morphing from computer hardware/software to a proprietary ecosystem of connected devices and online services. Apple was now a digital media/consumer products company, and Jobs morphed marketing initiatives that started with innovative campaigns like “Think Different” and “Here’s to the Dreamers” and turned them into tagline-less TV ads featuring silhouettes of people dancing to their iPods—their earbuds and digital music players the only recognizable features of the spots. Then it was iPhones with their swiping fingers doing the walking through the App Store. And, finally, the iPad added another chapter to how we consume digital content.

The legendary ad agency Chiat/Day gets credit for ideas and execution, but anyone who has read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson knows how much influence Jobs had on the TV commercials and Apple’s overall marketing.

Contrast that to Kodak, which had worked its way into the national lexicon with the phrase “Kodak moment” and Paul Simon’s 1973 hit “Kodachrome,” dedicated to its color film. Marketing successes don’t get much more pronounced than that, but things didn’t continue to develop that way in the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to the advent of digital film technologies that Kodak was slow to adopt—and an aggressive Fujifilm.

The ’84 Summer Olympics was boycotted by the Soviet Union and several other Eastern Bloc nations. That meant more attention than usual from the media, more medals for U.S. athletes, more cheering and, of course, more spotlights on the Fujifilm logo found all over the Los Angeles games facilities—and throughout related TV coverage.

Two companies, two defining moments. A lot of it has to do with the right leadership at the right time. All of it has to do with making the right branding choices.

Why do you think Apple is succeeding and Kodak failed? Let us know in the comments below.

CI-Group, a New Jersey advertising agency, provides digital marketing and advertising consulting to Fortune 2000 companies in a wide range of industries. Founded nearly 30 years ago and based in Whitehouse, N.J., CI-Group is recognized as a top advertising agency specializing in marketing strategies, event marketing, promotions, direct marketing, digital printing, warehousing and fulfillment. Companies seeking an award-winning interactive agency thatmerges creative strategies with effective tactics should call 908-534-6100 or visit

If you need assistance or want to talk about your company’s branding, fill out the form below and a representative at CI-Group will contact you right away.

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