Google Search is the new Kodak Moment

Posted by andreaitis on February 8, 2010

I just read T/S’er Kashmir Hill’s post Super Bowl upset: Google puts on the best ad.    In it she says:

Getting the millions of people watching the Superbowl to feel all warm and fuzzy toward the company “that does no evil” may have been one of most strategic plays of the evening.

She’s right on all accounts, but the words that jumped out at me  are “warm and fuzzy.”   There aren’t many products people feel warm and fuzzy about these days.   Apple causes gotta-have-it Mac attacks, and the  iPad certainly led to obsessive reporting and was cleverly and very publicly punk’d by Jason Calacanis.    But warm and fuzzy?  Not so much.  In fact, I can’t think of a product that has elicited such emotional ties since Kodak.   Take a look at this Kodak commercial from the 1960s.  If you make it to the end without sobbing you’ll hear “One little girl.  One precious childhood saved for years to come, in pictures.  You can do it too.  All it takes is a camera, Kodak film, and thoughtfulness.”     Yes, that’s right:  Thoughtfulness.

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In this commercial from 1985, you’ll hear Barbra Streisand singing ‘Memories” while the hypnotic voiceover urges “When the moment means more, trust it to Kodak video tape.”

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George Eastman was an entrepreneur by his mid-twenties, way back in 1880.  He had a simple goal for the Eastman Kodak company:  “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil.”

Eastman’s faith in the importance of advertising, both to the company and to the public, was unbounded. The very first Kodak products were advertised in leading papers and periodicals of the day — with ads written by Eastman himself.

Eastman coined the slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest,” when he introduced the Kodak camera in 1888 and within a year, it became a well-known phrase.

via History of Kodak

Like Google, Kodak was used as a verb.   While Google’s verb-alization came organically, Kodak included it in the advertising headline “Kodak as you go.”   That phrase didn’t stick, but “Kodak Moment” did.   It’s a phrase still used today even though Kodak no longer plays a central role in our lives or our memories.  In fact, I suspect some people use “Kodak Moment” without really knowing where it originated.   Kodak created an emotional connection with its customers, and fed that through its advertising campaigns.   As Kodak struggles to find its place in an increasingly digital world, Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hayzlett is trying a new approach.

Mr. Hayzlett has abandoned the warm-and-fuzzy branding ads once typical of Kodak. Well-known slogans have included “You push the button — we do the rest” and “Share moments, share life.” Instead, he favors more product-specific ads. “We have to have ads that drive sales,” he says.

As part of Mr. Hayzlett’s effort to give Kodak a hipper image, the company was featured last year in the reality-TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and recently signed on for another season.

via Kodak Ads Get More Aggressive – The Wall Street Journal

The implication here is that “warm and fuzzy” cannot be hip.   Last night, Google blasted that theory to bits.  Google beautifully and simply told the story of boy meets girl, with Google Search helping them every step of the way toward happily ever after.   Google created an emotional connection that only further cements its place in our lives and now, gently,  in our hearts.   That Google commercial?  A Kodak moment, for sure.

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7 Responses to “Google Search is the new Kodak Moment”

  1. Todd Essig said

    I had such a different reaction. No warm fuzzies at all — all it takes is google-supplied information to fall in love, marry, and have a child? I felt diminished by the ad.

    Also, it reminded about David Knowles hilarious post —

  2. andreaitis said

    A case of the cynical vs the sentimental. Google doesn’t make it happen, but it’s there every step of the way. Google has absolutely become a part of daily life, for the highs and lows. Need a waffle recipe? Google. Need to research chemotherapy? Google. Actually, let me rephrase that: search has become a part of daily life. Google was just smart enough to exploit it.

  3. Todd Essig said

    Cynical, moi?? I am a total sap, used to tear-up during the old “reach out and touch someone” commercials. But google doesn’t hit that nerve. People have been falling in love in Paris for quite some time. As intrusive as its become (fact of life?) we pay a huge cost for “free” access to their cool tools. I kept thinking about how this guy’s experience was shaped by the ads he encountered because he gave google the intimate details of his love life. I know I’m in the minority (I might even be alone there) but I hate what google-ization is doing to us.

    Love the tools, hate the business model.

  4. Folks might be more familiar with the fictionalization of the genesis of Kodak’s 60s-vintage campaigns:

  5. andreaitis said

    That’s it exactly, Zach. To quote the Mad Man himself: “Technology is a glittering lure, but there is the rare occasion where the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash; if they have a sentimental bond with a product…”

  6. Facebook User said

    Andreaitis – Tom from Kodak (the one with the moments 😉 here. We loved that Google ad last night as well and were talking about it this morning. Those conversations weren’t negative. Many, many companies appeal to people on an emotional level. Even some ads from McDonalds have produced a tear in the corner of my eye at times. Hallmark is another example, etc. (I guess I am a sap like Todd too).

    We are in the thick of enabling people’s special moments. Kodak technology touches tens of millions of printed photos each and every day. 85% of digital cameras and 87% of camera phones are licensed to use Kodak technology. Making products and services that enable people’s self expression, to tell the stories of their lives, is fundamental to what we do. It is in our DNA and we are happy that a phrase that we coined has become part of the popular vernacular. We have the utmost respect for those “moments” and do all we can to share and preserve them for our customers.

    We use a variety of methods to get our message out that does not imply a wholesale shift from one approach or theme to another. We have evolved our marketing just as we have our businesses for more than a century. The common thread through it all has been a keen understanding of the important impact the products we make can have on people’s work and lives.

    Thanks for listening – tom hoehn
    twitter: @tomhoehn,

  7. andreaitis said

    Hey Tom –
    Thanks for the comment. The fact that Kodak has existed for over a century is a testament to its flexibility when times and market needs change. I do wonder, though, what the “Kodak Moment” will mean to the generation growing up with Google. Will it remain nostalgia, or will it be redefined? Maybe that’s a Super Bowl ad for next year…

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