What the wine industry can learn from Kodak

Look, I’m no business expert. But as an amateur photographer with a strong affection for Kodak, and particularly the Kodachrome film (deceased for some years), I think there are some lessons for the wine industry as outlined in this account of the decline of this once great firm.

The main lesson is that current performance isn’t the result of what you are doing now. There’s a time lag. If you use metrics to measure your business success, you are actually measuring how you were doing a couple of years back. Or five years back. Or six months ago. It depends on your business sphere.

Kodak, it seems, took some short term decisions without realizing it. In order to protect their core business, they ignored their gut feelings about future trends. They wanted to protect film, so pulled back on digital. Some denial in action?

If you are a wine company, beware of both trends. How you act now will determine your success in a few years’ time. You could already have missed the next trend, but it won’t show up on your balance sheet yet.

Also, if needs be, be your own competitor. If your main business emphasis has a shelf life, let your next be the new cutting edge. Allow brands in decline to die, but make sure you are developing the next high-performing brand.

No company is too big to fail. Be big, but always act like you are small.

5 comments to What the wine industry can learn from Kodak

  • Lee Newby

    Good piece.

    But,“No company is too big to fail” except most US banks and some smaller European countries.

  • keith prothero

    Like the last sentence and agree completely.

  • Steve


    This piece from John Naughton explains it far better. Unless new technologies make wine redundant (which is unlikely- food and drink as inimitable experiences are immune to digitisation if not fashion) then the comparison is meaningless.

  • I wouldn’t say it is meaningless, Steve. Just not directly translatable in a literal sense. I’d still maintain that there are lessons to be learned about change, and the need for it on the part of all companies. The photographic transition from film to digital is an extreme example. Perhaps a parallel might be for media companies in the transition from print to online/electronic, although it’s also different in that print isn’t going to disappear altogether.

  • Paul

    Steve, if you owned a good patch of Aussie shiraz, or California merlot, you might not think the comparison was so meaningless.

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