For many people, Kodak is a heritage brand synonymous with old school photography; a once massive brand cut down by the rise of digital culture. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and sold off many of its patents. It then reemerged in 2013 as Kodak Alaris, a shell of its former brand power, owned by the Kodak Pension Plan. A 2016 Harvard Business Review piece placed much of the blame on the company’s choice to prioritize printing over sharing, even after it bought photo sharing site Ofoto in 2001.
Now Kodak Moments, the consumer photo-printing division of Kodak Alaris, wants to help people sort through the millions of photos that get snapped and shared, then forgotten. With the company’s largest marketing campaign since 2013, it’s launching an app and Facebook bot that uses AI and algorithms to mine your phone and Facebook feed for Kodak Moments that may have slipped through the cracks.
Chief marketing officer Rob Smith says that despite the digital photo market being packed with apps, platforms and more, the idea of a “Kodak moment” is still alive and thriving, citing approximately 450,000 #kodakmoments hashtags on Instagram alone, that span across age, gender, and other demographics.
“We fielded a study that found that 55% of Americans believe culture is losing its ability to identify what is authentic and meaningful, and 44% believe they’re bad at recognizing the moments in life that matter the most,” says Smith. “This is why we believe there is a place in culture for Kodak Moments to exist and whey we believe there is a place in this crowded market to provide a differentiated experience for people.”
The “Made For You” app, uses Kodak Moments’ own proprietary discovery engine, created with its more than 20 patents in image science, to go through a phone’s camera rolls and curate them into “Stories” or “Moments,” then suggest personalized, printed photo products. To select the right moments, the engine evaluates location, time/date/event clustering, facial recognition, and quality analysis to improve the selections.
The Moments Assistant Facebook bot is built on two APIs, one driving the artificial intelligence of the conversation, the other analyzing your Facebook photos to find the ones that matter most. To identify the photos most representative of a Kodak Moment, they developed a custom algorithm that inputs and weighs all of the data attached to a photo like tagging, relationships, location, engagement and keywords. Here again, the goal is to encourage users to print those photos.
Smith says that’s how the brand aims to monetize these apps. “Once we display images that people may have forgotten about on premium products with an option to immediately physically share, we expect to make money from the prints and the photo-products that we sell,” says Smith.
If it all sounds a eerily similar to the approach some credit with Kodak’s original downfall–the prioritization on printing–Smith sees an encouraging market for IRL photos, pointing to research that says about 28 million people in the U.S. still print photos. The brand is also aiming its ads at people where they are likely to be having “Kodak moments.”
“From major city travel hubs to commercials during NFL games over Thanksgiving, we want people to make the connection when capturing an important moment is top of mind,” says Smith, adding the primary target market is parents, aged 25-44. “They take millions of photographs, but most of the Kodak Moments are lost to their social feeds or camera roll, especially the everyday moments.”
Who knows, perhaps the pendulum can swing back to a certain appreciation for printed photos at scale. Like vinyl records. Smith recognizes that it’s a specialty product, far from the Kodak glory days. “We’re not trying to be the biggest player,” he says. “We’re aiming to create a different, premium experience for consumers with a superior user experience. We’re also offering a curated product set for people to buy, and are not trying to be all things to all people.”