Enterprises - keep up with innovation and restrategize

Lessons from Giants – When Lack of Strategy and Innovation (Nearly) Destroyed the Polaroid Enterprise

If you’ve been keeping up with our three piece, enterprise focused series, you’ll know that we have studied movie rental giant, Blockbuster and major book store chain, Borders Book Group to learn why they went under. It was clear in both the Blockbuster and Border case that the reason for their corporate demise was their lack of innovation and a disconnect from their clients.

We mentioned that very few “successful” companies of the last 60 years have survived, and not just because their product offering wasn’t strong enough to keep up with competitors, but because they did not constantly innovate and restrategize according to the trends in the market. We now take a look at Polaroid and see how foreseeing trends and being quick on the uptake can save a global enterprise.

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Say Cheese

After launching the camera – the most innovative product in instant photography, in 1948 – Polaroid began a quick ascent to the top of the photography market. By 1978, they employed over 20,0000 employees and only a few short years after, exceeded revenues of $3 billion.

But, despite the business seemingly booming and disrupting the instant photography market, the combination of Polaroid experiencing a series of unfortunate events coupled with the company’s inability to hold on to market share, nearly brought the enterprise to destruction. In 1996, Polaroid felt the heat and attempted to kickstart the digital camera industry with the launch of the PDC-2000. Despite the early emergence into the market, the enterprise was not able to take a bite out of the market-share pie and things quickly went downhill from there.

In 1998, Polaroid was the victim of an attempted hostile takeover which put them in debt nearing $1 billion and by 1999 they filed for bankruptcy for the first time. By 2001, Polaroid filed for a second bankruptcy and went through a total of six CEO’s in only 4 short years.

Time to Restrategize

By the time 2010 rolled around, Polaroid knew they had one thing going for them – a strong household name that was synonymous with innovation and known for being an industry leading company. At the time when digital cameras were all the rage, the Polaroid cameras on the market, which were old and outdated, were virtually obsolete. Rather than going under, Polaroid put up a fight; shifting their strategy and integrated innovation into their company culture and products.

In 2011, Polaroid did the impossible; they recognized digitization and the increasing use of smartphones and released a new product to meet the growing demands of modern and mobile consumers. The Polaroid GL10, described as “a portable photo booth in the palm of your hand,” which gives mobile users the chance to instantly print photos from their digital devices, was released and creatively promoted as a way for consumers to print photos from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites.

Polaroid also brought on pop queen, Lady Gaga, as Creative Director in efforts to appeal to younger consumers, a tactic that turned out to be successful.

The strong name of Polaroid along with the mass social following of Lady Gaga, marked a turning point for the once-near-extinct enterprise.

Today, Polaroid has a new line of products that integrates instant film alongside modern technology, prooVing that innovation and a bit of restructuring can save a company from demise. The Polaroid SC1630 Android Smart camera and the Polaroid Cube (competitor to the GoPro Hero) are strengthening their stronghold on the photography market and showing the world (and especially Kodak) that it is in fact possible to succeed despite a near death.

Lesson Learned

As enterprises rise and fall, companies today are constantly seeking new ways to stay one step ahead of the game. Lack of innovation can surely kill a company, but that is not the only thing big businesses have to worry about, as recognizing a shift in consumer demands and retaining company values are just as important. The trick to success as an enterprise is knowing how to innovate not only your technology, but also your strategy and thinking.

Simply put, if Blockbuster and Borders (our last two post subjects) had the chance to read this before embarking on a series of destructive decisions, perhaps they would be our chosen revival story (and maybe Lady Gaga would be promoting a movie rental store or book store instead of a Camera).