Both Kodak and Fuji have gained recognition in the photography industry for their products, including film, cameras, and printers. Although they started in the same field and offered similar items, these companies took different approaches to management and overall business strategy. As a result, one company experienced success while the other encountered difficulties. George Eastman, an enthusiastic photography lover, founded Kodak with the intention of simplifying the process of creating photos.
In 1880, Eastman founded what would become the Kodak Company. The company’s foundations were based on four key principles: low-cost mass production, global distribution, extensive advertising, and customer-centeredness. Over time, they incorporated additional policies such as continual research, investing in human resources, and a profit reinvestment program. (Building the Foundation) Kodak’s approach toward ethics and social responsibility differed from the conventional practices of that era.
George Eastman believed that people were the key to building a successful business, and he demonstrated this belief through his management of the company. In 1899, he generously distributed a significant amount of his personal funds directly to his employees as a gift. This act laid the foundation for his innovative “Wage Dividend” system, where employees received additional benefits based on their ownership of company stock. These wage dividends constituted a significant portion of the company’s profits and were seen as groundbreaking at the time. Furthermore, in 1919, Eastman generously donated one-third of his stock, valued at $10 million, to the company’s employees.
George Eastman added retirement annuity, life insurance, and disability benefit plans to Kodak’s existing profit sharing, ensuring employees had a secure future. While these additions may have initially decreased the company’s returns, it has been proven throughout history that they can ultimately increase overall profitability. (George Eastman)
The Kodak Company had dominated the photo industry until the establishment of Fussily, a Japanese company, in 1934. Since then, Fussily has become a leader in motion picture photography, audio and videotape, and floppy disc industries.
The company, Fussily, offers a range of products including still cameras, camcorders, photofinishing equipment, paper and chemicals, as well as imaging and information products for the office and health care markets. Fussily originally began by producing motion picture film, dry plates, and photographic paper. At first, it was challenging for Fussily to establish brand recognition because the Eastman Kodak Company dominated the market. Furthermore,Fussily’s quality standards were not comparable to Kodak’s, creating difficulties in gaining momentum.
Firstly, to compete in the market, Fistful’s strategy was to create film and paper that could be used with the processing systems commonly used worldwide. By 1969, all of their films, photo paper, and chemicals were fully compatible with these processing systems. With a strong emphasis on product quality, Fussily successfully developed their first film product and a motion-picture negative film. This demonstration of technical proficiency gained them consumer trust in Japan and created a demand for their products. After the end of World War II, Fussily expanded their exports to film and optical products, focusing primarily on South America and Asia.
During the post-war boom, there was a high demand for new products to be developed. This presented an advantage for Fussily, while also leading to a downfall for Eastman Kodak and providing an advantage for Fuji. This was due to an agreement between Kodak and Fussily, allowing Fussily to produce black and white amateur roll film from 1952 onwards, as well as three additional black and white roll film products by 1958. This opportunity allowed Fussily to become the leading manufacturer in Japan and expand its presence in other countries, including the United States.
The introduction of Fussily’s cartridge-film eight-millimeter home movie system in the United States did not go unnoticed. However, Soda swiftly competed with and surpassed this product. In order to gain a larger market share, Fussily adjusted its strategy by educating both amateurs and professionals about the differences between their products and Kodak’s. On the other hand, Kodak focused primarily on appealing to beginner consumers. To remain competitive in the film product industry, Fussily concentrated on innovation and advancing technology to bring products to market more quickly than Kodak.
The new strategy involved developing, manufacturing, and marketing similar products at a faster pace to beat Kodak in releasing merchandise. Fussily became the third largest film producer in the US market by 1980. One instance of Fistful’s business strategy was the introduction of the digital camera in 1988. (The History of Fussily – Part 2) In contrast, Kodak had previously developed a digital camera in 1979 but withheld it from consumers. (1960-1979) Kodak delayed the release of a digital camera for consumers until 1991. (1990-1999) Kodak underestimated the demand for the digital camera and gambled on the market’s reluctance to transition from film. The management approaches of both companies differed in adapting to changing market conditions. Kodak focused on marketing to amateur photographers, staying true to the company’s original mission of making photography accessible to beginners. Kodak prioritized quality, refusing to release a product until it consistently performed well and was user-friendly for their target customer base: beginners.
Kodak’s failure can be attributed to their failure to fully embrace the potential of digital cameras and their impact on consumer photography. Additionally, they focused on catering to both amateur and professional photographers, expanding their market. However, rather than emphasizing product quality, they prioritized speed-to-market to outpace competitors. Adaptation to changing market needs was a continuous effort for Kodak.
The company, Fussily, experienced great success by diversifying its operations to include medical products such as x-ray imaging and nutritional vitamins. They also utilized their chemical expertise in photo developing to enter the personal cosmetics industry. In contrast, Kodak faced limitations in maximizing its potential. It is essential for any company to integrate flexibility into decision-making and prioritize research and development as vital components of this process.
Continuously enhancing your products and services will significantly increase the likelihood of outpacing your competitors and remaining at the forefront of your industry. While you may not be responsible for every breakthrough in your market, having a strong emphasis on research and development enables you to swiftly react to innovations from rival firms. Moreover, prioritizing research and development enhances your capacity to proactively shape the market landscape, rather than simply reacting to its fluctuations. Regularly analyzing the external environment is yet another method of cultivating adaptability.
By actively monitoring external market trends and anticipating competitor actions, the company can prevent being caught off guard and promptly respond to changes. Additionally, scanning the external environment assists in identifying any possible supply or demand issues, thereby preventing unexpected disruptions. For instance, failing to monitor the external environment may lead to overlooking the potential implications of a government shutdown. In such a scenario, if a substantial portion of the customer base is impacted by the shutdown, their purchasing power could decrease and result in reduced sales of the company’s products.
To prevent damage caused by a shift in consumer loyalty and competition from lower-priced competitors, I recommend three strategies for companies to increase flexibility. One of these strategies is the periodic rotation of positions within the company’s decision-making body. This can enhance the chances of generating new ideas to improve profitability and establish a stronger market presence. Instead of completely overhauling the board, my suggestion is to selectively rotate qualified individuals into positions without replacing the entire board.
By retaining some of the existing board members while periodically replacing a few individuals, it becomes possible to maintain a consistent company direction without undergoing significant shifts.