The digital revolution over the last thirty years has forced a pool of brands to revive their business strategies in order to survive. Some brands have strayed, sunk and eventually been swallowed. Others have withstood the waves to stay close to the perimeter by proving a knack for staying nimble.
For rebooted iconic heritage marques like Polaroid, they’ve leveraged their near-century long company cachet, albeit originally an analog one, to piggyback onto the currents of new tech to reinvent their approach to products and marketing. It wasn’t smooth sailing, though. From 2001-to-2009, the privately-held American company filed for bankruptcy twice and went through six CEOs in a four-year span. They’ve since solidified the shaky structure and emerged to be social-savvy by bridging the gap between digital and instant.
With the likes of Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol nowhere to be found in the smartphone and selfie era—artistic expression is now inspired by thumb-stopping influencers and a convoy of social creators bringing branded content for the new generation.
At the start of the year, Polaroid continued its comeback campaign and made more moves as an easy-to-use consumer electronics lifestyle company across categories including instant digital cameras and printers, 3D printers and pens, virtual reality, 4K TVs, home security cameras and mobile phones. The suite of products bank on the brand’s notorious nostalgia while reintroducing them as a curator of innovation who pushes boundaries. The combination of products is a ploy to attract the young Instagram-and-Snapchat-using consumer who prefers simplicity, fun and immediacy.
Platforms like Polaroid Swing, an app that captures one-second snapshots as “living photographs”—think Harry Potter movies—and one that champions photographers, is helping position the brand to broaden their portfolio of products, too.
New product introductions with social use cases are proving to help, and premium point-and-shoot cameras and instant print cameras in the digital imaging market are on the rise, per an October study by the NPD Group, which stated that sales of instant print cameras grew 166 percent, as more than 3.5 million units were sold. Fujifilm is leading the market in instant print camera sales, followed by Polaroid.
Scott W. Hardy, president and CEO of Polaroid since 2009, has largely been responsible for supplying the vision for the brand’s swift turnaround and saved it from toiling to oblivion. Hardy joined [a]listdaily to shed light on the camera company’s preservation and revival.
Polaroid has been in business for 80 years. How are you reintroducing the brand to millennials and Gen Z? What is the brand story you want to share?
Over the past few years, the instant photography market has seen a significant amount of growth in the millennial and Gen Z demographic. We like to refer to these demographics as digital natives—people who grew up with digital devices like smartphones and tablets. What Polaroid is doing with our current instant product line is bridging the gap between digital and instant, giving consumers the best of both worlds. For example, our Polaroid Snap instant print camera line allows consumers to capture a digital image and an instant photo. And our Polaroid Zip instant photo printer offers consumers a way to print physical photos of their smartphone pictures. We also offer the Polaroid Swing App which allows Gen Y artists to create moving photos with one easy tap. Today, having both digital files and instant prints is important for this demographic when it comes to social media. We consider Polaroid pictures as the original social network. Polaroid instant photos are really the first instance in history where people were able to capture an image and instantly share it with friends and family, like we do on social media today.
What is Polaroid’s strategy for constantly remaining nimble and revamping for the digital age? How are you leveraging and banking on your globally recognized brand profile to form strategic partnerships?
We view ourselves of curators of innovation and operate in a very fast and flexible partnership model where we can adapt to changing technology trends. Polaroid has a very strong following on social media. This, and the fact that we are one of the most recognized global brands has helped us secure a number of strategic digital partnerships around the world. Additionally, we have a broad demographic appeal that has allowed us to form partnerships with a wide variety of brands. For example, in 2016 we partnered with brands such as Janie and Jack and Etsy in the US, Nescafé and Topshop in Europe and Easy Taxi in Mexico.
Polaroid is increasingly marketing the company’s classic instant camera for the social media era. How is The Pop primed to prep Polaroid for consumer acquisition, all while preserving the classic experience?
The Polaroid Pop is the latest camera in our instant digital line. As I mentioned before, this line was designed to give consumers the best of both worlds. Up until now, all of these products have given users the ability to print two-by-three-inch full color photos with the option of printing with or without the Polaroid Classic Border Logo using something called Zink zero ink technology. We received feedback from consumers looking for the classic Polaroid three-by-four-inch photo with the Polaroid Classic Border Logo. So, for our 80th anniversary, it made sense to launch a camera that satisfies that demand. The Polaroid Pop gives consumers the ability to print photos in the classic Polaroid format using Zink technology. Additionally, the Polaroid Pop is a full digital camera, offering consumers the ability to save 20 megapixel still images and 1080p video to a microSD card, and using the Polaroid print app and Wi-Fi connectivity, print images saved on their smartphone.
How do you market to people who mostly have never had a genuine Polaroid film experience?
Even if people haven’t had a first-hand experience with instant film photography, with Polaroid being so globally recognized, we’re finding that many consumers are still familiar with brand and what we represent. Instant photography is seeing a resurgence today, and iconic elements like the Polaroid Classic Border Logo allow young consumers who did not grow up with analog film photography to make that connection with the brand, even with our new instant digital products that feature Zink zero ink printing technology, instead of film.
What is the brand looking to accomplish by diving into the drone camera space, as well as 4K TVs with built-in Google Chromecast?
In recent years as we’ve changed our business model from a vertical manufacturing company to a licensing model, we’ve expanded from just a photography brand to a much more diversified consumer electronics brand. As a recognized and trusted global brand, we’ve been able to grow into other consumer product categories, not only thinking about different ways people can capture content, but also new ways people can consume their content. For example, smartphones have become the primary camera for most consumers. We’ve embraced this trend, which has lead us to expand into new categories such as smartphones and mobile photography apps. Most recently, we’ve expanded into emerging technologies that help people capture their world in new ways—like drones—or provide a new way to enjoy content—like TVs with Chromecast built in. It’s our plan to continue to expand our product offering to include the latest technologies that stay true to our brand DNA.
What is the best mix of marketing messaging for incorporating Polaroid “nostalgia” and your intent on being “innovative” and “forward-thinking?”
Throughout our 80-year history, the Polaroid brand has always been about innovation and forward thinking. Bringing innovative and accessible products to market was one of the goals of Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, and this is still an element that is engrained in our brand DNA today. Today we see ourselves as curators of innovation. We are currently working with best-in-class partners to bring products to market. There are other characteristics of the core brand DNA that have been part of the Polaroid legacy for 80 years that we ensure are represent in all our current products. They include sharing, easy-to-use, instant and fun. Additionally, with Polaroid being one of the world’s most recognized brands, iconic Polaroid design elements—such as the Polaroid Pixel, Polaroid Color Spectrum and the Polaroid Classic Border Logo that I mentioned before—help create nostalgic connections with consumers, and are incorporated into many of our current products.
Polaroid has shared the sentiment that influencer marketing has worked wonders for the brand profile. What insights can you share about the impact that collaborating with creators has had on brand equity?
Polaroid has always been synonymous with creative expression. Throughout the brand’s history, we have provided people, from high-profile artists to everyday consumers, with innovative tools that enable creative expression. That tradition is alive and well today, as people from all walks of life are using our products to create, share and express themselves across a broad spectrum of channels and platforms. It’s always exciting to put our products in the hands of creative individuals and see what develops. Doing so with influencers has resulted in some really amazing content, and helped to elevate the profile of the brand and our products.
Which social channels are you most interested in engaging with your audience? Are you looking to test any new emerging platforms?
We have a very active fan base on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook allows us to interact with our fans through promotions, sweepstakes and general community engagement. The photography focus of Instagram makes it a natural fit for Polaroid, and for our fans. There’s a strong Polaroid and instant photography community on the platform. We’ve been able to connect with this community through specific campaigns focused on gathering and sharing user-generated content and engaging with brand evangelists.
How is pairing branded content with social creators helping Polaroid drive sales? How do you further plan on adding and building on top of your influencer marketing strategy this year?
I don’t know that we can necessarily quantify the impact that social creators have had on sales, specifically. I know that putting our products in the hands of creative individuals and letting them show other people what’s possible is inspirational and, ultimately, highly beneficial to the brand overall.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan