Way back before digital photography, when dinosaurs roamed the surface of the planet, families packed themselves into smoky living rooms to watch trays full of color slides projected onto uneven plastered walls. These photo viewing sessions along with some of the most outstanding print photography in history were brought to you by Kodachome, Kodak’s long-lived transparency film. Kodachrome, created by Eastman Kodak in 1935 (specifically, by scientists Leopold Godowsky and Leopold Mannes, known as "God and Man" inside Kodak), has been around longer than any photo product in history. Today, Kodak announced that it is “retiring” Kodachrome.
When I was young and dipping my toe into the very deep waters of photography, I primarily used black and white print film which was my stock in trade because I could process and print it myself. When I wanted color, I used Kodachrome and it’s younger sibling, Ektachrome. The colors in Kodachrome were great – much better than color prints at the time. In retrospect, slides held up way better than prints as well and are much easier to scan into their digital versions.
The passing of such a product is a reminder about how things have changed and how companies need to be dynamic and change with their markets – hopefully leading them. Kodak has made the switch to digital (they still, of course, produce plenty of film), but in the change, lost the market leadership that they once had. While I’m sad to see such a landmark product die out, it makes me excited to think about all the potential replacement products in all markets as inevitable change happens.
Nintendo lost its utter dominance of the home electronic game market when Sony, then Microsoft beat them at their own game, using new technology. Nintendo then reemerged from its failure with another breakthrough product, the Wii. What’s going to happen now to wristwatch sales as virtually everyone under 25 uses their phone to get the time? How about compact camera sales? As cell phone cameras keep improving and software processing on phones gets better, who will want to carry both a compact camera and a phone? You get the idea.
What about your market? What fundamental and underlying changes are happening that you can take advantage of? Don’t think only technological, societal changes are even bigger driving forces. Whatever they are, get there first and you’ll have a substantial advantage.