Remembering a Sentimental “KISS” in Business

With the holidays fast approaching I was thinking about holidays past. Then something hit me I had nearly forgotten. It wasn’t past family memories or gatherings, rather it was a realization that one of my personal heroes Gene Simmons of the legendary band KISS has silently been vindicated in his thoughts, ideas, and execution of vision which resulted in a dramatic firing episode on the television show The Celebrity Apprentice back in 2008.

If one truly wants to see the difference between “brand execution” juxtaposed to “a race to the bottom” there isn’t a clearer example to see on television. Only with time passed can the results manifest and be calculated as to vindicate the winning argument. I believed then as I do now that Gene was correct and here’s some proof to ponder as one recalls past memories.

Gene’s argument was as he put it “A Kodak World.” The company Kodak® was pressing hard that the new ink it had created for printers at nearly half the cost of its competitors as the “key” to its business future. Gene was unabashed in his feelings and in his demonstrations that the brand Kodak was the important selling feature. It was what the company as a brand delivered to the customer. The brand delivered emotions. The ink was just a delivery vehicle for this moment in time, not the end all be all for the company. The CEO displayed he would have none of it. On all counts Gene and his team were rebuffed, refuted, and even made fun of because of the unshakeable determination Mr. Simmons gave in defense of his presentation for the  clients products.

As the boardroom drama went on during that episode I kept saying to my wife: “Love his idea or hate it, he’s stating why he did it and unapologetic for it.” My wife shrugged and said: “Only time will tell.” Her salient point is now in full view.

Since then a few major disruptions to the world of pictures has taken place. For one, who carries around pictures any longer since the advent of the iPhone®? Another fact that cannot be understated is the explosion of Facebook®. How many people do you know within your own inner circles post pictures by the bucket load onto their Facebook pages? I bet it’s exponential in comparison to those printing them on their home printer. Ink is absolutely worthless to just these two new platforms in the world of photography. However the brand Kodak is not only applicable to these platforms, its scalable in a way of creating more value to the customer experience. As for the savings of 50% on your ink, it’s what Seth Godin refers to as “the race to the bottom.” Ink is just the commodity side in the business of capturing memories. And if you want to be in the commodity business, there’s always someone who can do it cheaper. Last time I looked, a photo on Facebook or an iPhone is not only free, it’s ink less. Hard to sell something people no longer need or care about. However is it far-fetched to think that Kodak could be producing photo experiences across both these platforms if the “It’s a Kodak World” model had been embraced? Would there be a need for Flickr® if Kodak embraced that model? How much more relevant would the brand Kodak be today if it looked at ink as the commodity part of its business that it clearly was? What if it had embraced the idea that the “Kodak World” branding strategy was far more important and scalable in the new media? A way no commodity could ever match.

Since then a few holidays have gone past. The only memories that Kodak has had of late is to watch its valuation of market share since then dwindle over 90% to the verge of insolvency. The market share of companies that have latched onto the branding and the ink less models have watched their valuation increase exponentially.

This holiday season I raise my drink and cheer Mr. Simmons as I listen to that classic seasonal favorite: “Shout it Out Loud!”


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved