In this article, we are discussing Polaroid – the brand who was brought back to life by its fans. As we all know, cell phones and digital meant the death of film photography…but they made a comeback.
Throughout the 60s and 70s, Polaroid was synonymous with instant photography. They had a monopoly on the instant photography market, and were a huge player in the overall photography landscape. Polaroid accounted for 20% of the global film market, and 15% of the US camera market. The people at Polaroid weren’t fools. They had market researchers, and they knew the market was changing. But simply couldn’t imagine how completely digital photography would replace the chemistry of film photography, and physical photos.
This once dominant household name started to falter. Throughout the 90’s Polaroid fought to stay afloat. In 2001 faced with declining sales and an inability to respond to the challenges of digital photography, Polaroid declared bankruptcy for the first time. The company sold off its brand and much of its assets. A “new” Polaroid company was formed, but without a clear intention or mission the company languished. In 2008 the Polaroid instant camera, once the very symbol of creativity in the moment, officially died.
Meanwhile, as Polaroid was trying to find itself as part of that sale of assets in 2008, a group of Polaroid “super fans” intervened to buy the company’s last remaining instant film factory in the Netherlands. They started a company of their own, with the intention of producing new instant films for existing polaroid cameras. They wanted to keep the form of the instant film photo alive. They called this company “The Impossible Project.”
Polaroid eventually expanded into tablets, televisions, and other digital media. When the time was right, the company re-visited instant photography, creating cameras and presented it to a new, younger audience. It was a fun option that printed instant wallet-sized photographs. For kids who’d grown up with smartphones, the idea of a physical photo you could give to a friend was new, fun, and kind of retro-feeling.
In essence, Polaroid didn’t reinvent themselves to create their rebound. They clarified who they were, doubled down on their incredibly strong equity, and then they waited until the market came back around to them.
So at the end of the day, Polaroid didn’t really reinvent themselves, they clarified who they were. It wasn’t easy, but through everything they have been through, there has never been any negativity connected with the brand. Long live film. For more information on this topic, head over to The Marketing Rescue Podcast.