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BLOG: How to fight irrelevance in the Digital Age

Seamus Bellamy | Dec. 7, 2011
Even companies behind today's technology can suffer the fate of brands like Kodak. These points can keep your business from joining them.

At this point, it's fair to say that the company that gave us the "Kodak moment" has had its moment in the sun. With its once-pricey shares now selling at around $1, Eastman Kodak is bleeding over $70 million dollars a month, making Canada's browbeaten Research in Motion look fit as a fiddle by comparison.

Ironically, Kodak's misfortunes come at the hands of one of the companies own creations: the digital camera. Pieced together from spare parts back in 1975, the technology was immediately pooh-poohed by Kodak's officers as it strayed from the company's business model of providing consumers with affordable cameras as a gateway to the continuous revenue stream generated by film and photographic processing materials.

Two decades later, with consumers wholeheartedly embracing digital photography, Kodak was in serious trouble. In 2009, the company produced its last roll of Kodachrome film. Today, market analysts are playing the odds as to when the company will announce that it's seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

If market irrelevance can break a behemoth of industry like Kodak, it can nudge your business too out of existence too. To avoid its fate, consider these pointers for staying relevant in the digital age.

1. Embrace Change

Kodak brought photography into the homes of the everyman and professionals in 1892, and managed to hold on to a commanding share of the market it was largely responsible for creating for over 100 years. As consumers slowly surrendered their film cameras in favor of digital solutions, Kodak, a company that had made more money from film and photographic processing supplies than it ever had off of cameras, was understandably slow to accept that a significant shift in technology and consumer preference was underway.

While Kodak finally embraced digital photography in the last decade, the company's adoption of film-free cameras as a part of the product line came a little too late in the game, given that it had invented digital photography back in the mid 1970s.

When looking to remain relevant in the face of a shifting technological landscape, don't assume that what's always worked for your company or organization will continue to work in the face of innovation. It's important for business owners to not only understand emerging trends, but to also angle for how a new technology can be incorporated into your existing business model.

2. Adapt or Die

Kodak's not the only company suffering as a result of shifting trends in technology. Newspapers, booksellers and the music industry have all been in a tumultuous flux for years, thanks to the changing purchasing and consumption habits of consumers. While all three have lamented the death of their fiscal fortunes at the hands of tech over the past few decade, all three managed to survive the transition from businesses that specialized in providing their customers with a physical product to a model that allows revenues to be reaped from digital downloads and online content aggregation.


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