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Groaning at Kodak Printer Promotion Website

In a Forbes editorial, Clayton Christensen remarked "Struggling film giant Eastman Kodak announced a bold new offering that just might shake up the $50 billion printer industry. Kodak is introducing a $150 to $300 consumer inkjet printer that uses ink cartridges priced more than 50 percent lower than those of incumbents. Kodak's approach has many of the hallmarks of disruptive innovation, giving it a great chance of creating a much-needed winning product."

On that backdrop, what was Kodak's chief marketing officer thinking when he approved the launch of the Ink Is It promotional microsite? The two characters, Nathan and Max, featured in videos on the site may be funny to some people. However, instead of laughing with them, I found myself groaning at yet another misguided attempt to jump on the internet video bandwagon with a poorly conceived idea.

I actually admire most attempts to try something creative and clever, but the current tone of the content on this website just doesn't come close to reaching its apparent objective. If the idea was to clearly articulate the benefits of choosing a Kodak consumer inkjet printer, then they have clearly missed the mark.

On the surface, the value proposition of the lower lifetime cost -- printer plus ongoing ink supplies -- could be very compelling to a cost-conscious consumer. But, that message just doesn't come across in the ad agency's creative. The characters seem to get in the way of any redeeming clarity that may have otherwise been present in the scripts for these skits.

Christensen says that Kodak is attempting to pull off a classic low-end disruption, as defined in his book The Innovator's Solution, by producing a less-expensive product with few frills that still fits its customer's needs.

However, since most of the existing ink jet cartridges for other printers are refillable -- either by a recycle service provider, or by the do-it-yourself approach -- I believe that there should be something much more compelling within Kodak's benefit statements.

As an example, are Kodak's printer cartridges easier to remove and replace? If so, then I would create a video about the superior usability of the Kodak design, because this is a substantive point of differentiation. My wife would be the first person the champion a word-of-mouth campaign that solved this common printer design problem (disclosure: we currently use HP and Lexmark printers).

If Kodak wants to get creative in a substantive way, and gain a competitive edge, then I'd recommend focusing on the overall printer user experience. The current user interface on consumer-grade printers has improved greatly over the last few years. That said, many people still believe that there's significant room for further design improvement.

By the way, if you are wondering about the picture at the top of this post, it's from the main Kodak website which was "offline" today when I clicked on the link to their home page. This typically doesn't happen on a Fortune 1000 company's corporate website. Perhaps Kodak's CIO can address this issue, while the CMO is reworking their marketing strategy.

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