As part of their effort to continue to support obsolete formats, such as Super 8 movie film and color motion picture film, Kodak has announced that they will begin producing VHS tapes this August. Their plan is consistent with the recent Japanese announcement that the last manufacturer of VCR recorders will discontinue production.
For more on the discontinuation of VCR recorders, see Last Known VCR Maker Stops Production 40 Years after VHS Format Launch, RIP: Japan Is Making Its Last-Ever VCR, and Japan Will Make Its Last-Ever VCR This Month.
Print your favorite pictures for free! The headline caught my attention, so I signed up. I’m willing to let an advertiser print on the back of my photos if I get them for free. Guess what? I have to wait 3 months 3 weeks and 6 days for my prints! Why not call it four months and keep the change. That’s right. All sense of spontaneity is gone. Sometime in October I should receive my prints. Hilarious. For more information on Flag, see Print your favorite pictures for free with the Flag app.
Note: I have a beer riding on these pictures so I hope I see them some time, but that’s another story.
“Within the company, there was widespread agreement that customers would always want hard copies of pictures, and key decision makers failed to question this assumption.”
“They favored the comfort of consensus over the discomfort of dissent, which was precisely the opposite of what they should have done.”
“Those who disagreed were quickly marginalized.”
“Instead, leaders fiddled while the company burned.”
Adam Grant, Originals, 2016
No, these quotes do not refer to Creative Memories or even to Kodak. Instead, they refer to Polaroid, a company ruled by Edwin Land, the strong-willed founder who could not see the world outside of his own narrow perspective. Because instant film had succeeded, he felt it always would. Instead instant film drove Polaroid to its demise, as the company ignored the coming wave of digital photography. After all, why earn 38% profit margin on digital product when you can earn 70% on film.
For more about Polaroid, see Chapter 7 on Rethinking Groupthink in Originals by Adam Grant, as well as Sell Stuff and Polaroid, Kodak, and a Complete Disregard of the Patent System.
The first home printer was not invented by Hewlett Packard or even by Epson. Instead, it was invented by Benjamin Franklin, who had a printing press installed in his home in Passy so that he could publish bagatelles, satires, pamphlets, and other information while he was stationed in France.
For more information on Benjamin Franklin and his printing press see Franklin and His Press at Passy: An Account of the Books, Pamphlets, and Leaflets Printed There, Including the Long-lost “Bagatelles”.
The Peter Principle characterizes corporate promotions in that competent employees are frequently promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. This Principle applies in all circumstances but is particularly relevant to family businesses, where the Paternal Instep allows family members to be promoted several levels above his or her level of incompetence (R.I. Sutton in The Peter Principle, Collins Business edition, 2009). The situation created by this move can be devastating in that positions higher up within the company have greater influence on the success or failure of the company. A ship needs a rudder to steer.
The problem with the the Paternal Instep is further highlighted by Andrew Carnegie, “There are but three generations in America from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves,” meaning “The first generation builds the business, the second makes it a success, and the third wrecks it.”
While I was at Creative Memories the founder’s son promoted his daughter to run the company that was originally started by his father. The daughter had previously worked as a consultant and had no experience actually running an organization similar to Creative Memories. She was ill-prepared for the turmoil that Creative Memories faced, and the company soon entered bankruptcy. In doing so, Creative Memories fulfilled both the Peter Principle and Andrew Carnegie’s prophesy.
Black paper is one of the more difficult products to produce, or at least to produce well. Most black papers contain the ever-present carbon black, which is essentially soot produced from incomplete combustion of carbon containing materials. Carbon black is chemically stable but tends to rub off over time. Alternative products are typically more expensive or less stable. They bleed when exposed to moisture or fade when exposed to light.
When I was at Creative Memories, we were able to identify a combination of pigments that was stable and did not rub off. This paper was more expensive, but it met the requirements for permanence and photosafety.
One way to cut costs is to use white paper and dye the surface black. Paper made this was has a white edge wherever it is cut.
I have not kept up with the market for black paper and do not know what manufacturers are doing now, but I suspect that they are not producing the same quality paper that was available a few years ago.
In a related project, last year I had to redo my home driveway, and I wanted to use a dark colored concrete. It turned out that many of the formulations that were available were based on carbon black with many of the same problems I had seen firsthand with album pages. Fortunately, I was able to identify a manufacturer that used iron salts instead of carbon black. I am very pleased with my new driveway. For more information see Black is black… Or is it?
The last project I worked on at Creative Memories was a plan to manufacture digital photo products for other vendors, taking advantage of the Creative Memories Manufacturing and Distribution Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Creative Memories produced high quality photo books, calendars, and photo panels, and demand for these products was increasing throughout the photo industry.
By 2012, Creative Memories had significant excess capacity, and the company could not survive unless sales increased. The empty space in the Creative Memories Manufacturing and Distribution Center was evident to all. It was also clear to me and a few others that despite heroic efforts, the direct sales approach was unlikely to generate the required sales.
Operations recognized these concerns and in early 2012 offered me a position as Director of Digital Research and New Opportunities, with a goal of finding new markets for Creative Memories digital photo products. I had some early successes offering photo books to a small company in Minneapolis, as well as supplying products to Creative Memories in Australia; however, it quickly became clear that a more concerted and focused marketing effort was required. This project needed a name, a web site, and a presence at various trade shows. To succeed Creative Memories would have to leverage Creative Memories’ history and experience in the photo industry.
I settled on the name Creative Memories Press, created a web site, and registered for several trade shows. I also believed in transparency. I did not want to hide the fact that Creative Memories was offering products through other vendors, believing that the overall success of Creative Memories would benefit all, including Creative Memories Consultants.
Unfortunately, this plan never had the support of the entire Creative Memories executive team. The executive team outside of operations still believed in a miracle happening that would generate success within the direct sales industry.
When I launched the Creative Memories Press web site, a phone call from an upset Creative Memories Consultant to one of the company executives ended the entire plan. Creative Memories shut down the effort and cancelled plans to participate in industry trade shows. Fortunately, I had seen the situation coming and had received another job offer. On September 4, 2012, I left Creative Memories, realizing that another bankruptcy was inevitable.
On April 16, 2013, Creative Memories again filed for bankruptcy. Could Creative Memories Press have prevented this bankruptcy? I don’t know, but I would like to think so.