Brand wastage: Polaroid dies without imagination

Maybe some private equity types will again?

I love traditional photography. The tonal range, the fact one is making an object rather than a file and that the characteristics of different film can really change an image fascinates me. Luckily, I am not alone in this. Yet.

I could not help but compare and contrast the pathetic mismanagement of the Polaroid brand by its disinterested owners with other analogue photography innovators. It will soon cease to make the instant film beloved by so many in a commercially careless manner which suggests it never knew how important it was.

The firm has been on the way down since the late 70s when it chose to compete with Kodak in the courts rather than the marketplace and sunk a tonne of cash into an instant movie film at the dawn of the video age, but still had a ring of hipness and innovation about it.

After missing digital almost completely the Polaroid name now mainly lives on in bargain basement portable DVD players and plasma screens made by Chinese OEMs too far down the supply chain to even get third tier brands to stick their monikers on the indifferent product.

Instant film cannot be a mass market product anymore, but could have still survived in the digital age as a cool, retro and immediate lo-fi alternative. If a couple of Austrian chancers can make some of the worst film cameras ever made megazeitgeist-y and obscenely profitable surely Polaroid could have kept its iconic products going in a smaller scale way? With artists, musicians journalists and all kinds of cultural influencers as natural, loud advocates it is amazing they did not.

Who knows someone might buy the tooling but this really is a brand tragedy – a global name killed by bean counters who would have many more beans in the bag had they kept it alive.


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