Marketing myths: Beta vs VHS and the demise of Kodak

Before the web there were just plain marketing gurus.  They were the closest we had to the to soundbite Twitter sized slogan makers we are used to today.   Before Google searches, they were the ones discovering interesting stories about products, companies and brands.   And they packaged them neatly for us with branded big fonts and style.

A well known and well circulated in Marketing classes myth concerns Sony’s “failure” to promote Beta against VHS as a video format.   They usually forget to mention the main reason (Sony not wanting to go to bed with the porn industry) but – most importantly – they don’t even get their numbers right.   Did anybody bother to quantify the profits made from VHS versus what Sony made from Beta in the longterm?   Because as a broadcast standard for many many years I have seen that equipment being sold and rented for pretty big sums of money for more than two decades!   Even now there are TV stations ticking along with a dozen betaMax decks for A/B editing or even playout.

If Sony lost the battle against VHS as a format for every living room, they did pretty well getting it in every TV station and post production facility and even better as a base for launching a huge business around media production.   Doesn’t look like a failure to me.

Kodak going down has a similar smell already.   It is as if scores of writers had the obituary ready.   That little colored box in the marketing manual as a case study.   A perfect illustration of a big company getting arrogant and getting it wrong.   How new technologies overtake even the strongest firms.   How bad management is blind to change.   A company with more of a century of global domination seems an easy target.

 

Maybe they should wait a bit before writing that chapter.

Leave a Comment