Cognitive dissonance

Is this marketing boob why top dog Kodak finally went bust?: “

Kodak's logo when it was top of the heap

Did Kodak which filed for bankruptcy last week fail because the name itself was just plain wrong for digital products? That is the proposition put forward in a fascinating blog by American marketing expert Al Ries.

Just 16 years ago, he says, Kodak was the fourth most-valuable brand in the world, just behind Disney, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. ‘Today on the stock market, Disney is worth $70 billion, Coca-Cola is worth $154 billion, McDonald’s is worth $104 billion and Kodak is bankrupt,’says Ries.
How could the fourth most-valuable brand in the world have fallen so low, he asks writing in AdAge.

Everyone has an opinion on the subject, says Ries. A headline in the New York Times eight years ago described Kodak as , ‘A company slow to recognise the popularity of digital cameras.’ Donald Trump said a few weeks ago, ‘Kodak didn’t get into digital fast enough.’

Ries bluntly declares that The facts suggest otherwise..

‘In 1976, Kodak invented the digital camera. In 1986, Kodak announced the development of the world’s first megapixel digital sensor small enough for a handheld camera, one that had 1.4 million pixels. In 1994, Kodak introduced the first digital camera under $1,000. Between 1985 and 1994, Kodak invested some $5 billion into digital research & development.’

As a result of its massive investments, Kodak holds more than a thousand patents related to digital photography.

He says scornfully, ‘A company slow to recognize the popularity of digital cameras? No company has poured as much time and as much money into digital photography as Kodak.’

Then he zeroes in on what could be the real answer.’ Kodak means ‘film’ photography. Kodak doesn’t mean ‘digital’ photography. When a category is changing, the worst thing that can happen to a brand is being stuck in the past, ‘ says Ries.

‘ The Kodak brand was stuck in the past and the only thing that could have saved the company was a second brand . . .Kodak should have given its digital brand a different name than its film brand.’

There’s a lot of evidence in other Kodak products, from Kodak copiers to Kodak batteries , that the brand name ‘Kodak’ is not worth much outside of photographic film, according to Ries.

There are a lot of reasons for a product to fail, he says, but two of the most important reasons are: (1) the product itself and (2) the name.

Nobody ever seems to consider the latter, says Ries.
 Almost everybody thinks a well-known name is an advantage when introducing a new product. But not necessarily.

He cites Eveready, which dominated the battery market until Duracell came along. With Duracell’s marketing , consumers eventually believed there were two kinds of batteries: (1) inexpensive zinc-carbon batteries and (2) long-lasting alkaline batteries. ‘And Duracell rapidly became the market leader, a position it still owns today.’

‘Yet six years before the launch of Duracell, Eveready had introduced its own alkaline brand, called — naturally — Eveready alkaline battery. No matter. Just like Kodak and film, the Eveready name was forever linked to zinc-carbon, not alkaline batteries.’

Eveready evengtually introduced an alkaline battery with a different name, says Ries. It’s called Energizer, ‘a move it should have made much earlier.’

Many of the comments on the original Adweek article agree with Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm,.

What might have happened if the strategy he describes had been adopted by Kodak years earlier?

Permalink | Comments (0)

(Via The Drum – Opinion – Letter from America.)


The words “chaos” and “opportunity” are the same in Chinese according to Michael Reilly of Triantan Solutions, one of the expert speakers at the recent PharmaTimes’ Round Table event on Digital on 28th June.

Come 2020, when brand new Chinese-made smart phones are being given out for $10 to many millions in Africa, we in ‘The West” might look back and wish we had taken a bit more notice in 2011. (more…)

I’ve been an advocate of using cognitive dissonance since I first sat through TV adverts to avoid missing the “Which of these sporting heroes is the youngest? Find out after the break” episode.

I am also a big fan of Ckuck McKay who talks about it in more detail below.

Mark Walmsley

Can You Use Cognitive Dissonance to Create More Successful Advertising: “A couple of decades ago I sat on the invisible side of a two-way mirror and studied the members of a focus group as they watched some television ads my company was testing.

One of my company’s most vocal supporters watched an ad that positioned our product as quite similar to our major competitor’s product. He immediately lambasted our competitor.

Did you catch that? He saw a test ad in which our product claimed the same marketing position as our major competitor, and immediately assumed that the ad had been produced by that competitor, and promoted the competing product.

Was he easily confused? I think the answer is much more interesting: he suffered an episode of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term.

The term was coined in 1957 by social scientist Leon Feistinger to describe the uncomfortable tension which results from a person having two conflicting thoughts at the same time. Feistinger theorized that when the mind is presented with evidence which contradicts strongly held beliefs, the mind acquires or invents new information in order to justify the belief.

Our supporter in the focus group was presented with evidence that one company (ours – his favorite) was claiming attributes of a company he actively disliked. His reaction? It must be the OTHER company making these claims. To admit otherwise would be to admit that his favorite product had THOSE characteristics.

Selective observation is another manifestation of cognitive dissonance. We see this in each of the Presidential debates. Viewers accept those statements which reinforce their current beliefs (justification), and ignore those which contradict (denial). You can accurately gauge the politics of each network commentator by noting which of the candidates the commentator proclaims to be the winner.

How does cognitive dissonance affect advertising?

In general, people tend to be optimistic. They believe themselves to be virtuous, to be intelligent, to be successful. And pointing out the difference between people’s self images and the reality of their current situations can be a valid advertising strategy. The resulting cognitive dissonance can create an incomplete feeling in the customer who doesn’t own whatever the advertiser is selling.

Does it work on everyone? Of course not. But, it can work on enough customers to be a valid strategy.

  • John thinks of himself as successful, but he drives a 5-year-old car. Mr. Car Dealer reminds John that the new precision driving machine only appeals to those with discerning tastes, and that being seen in a performance car will telegraph to the world that John is someone to be reckoned with.
  • Jim loves his wife. Mr. Jeweler suggests that if he really loved her, Jim would show it with jewelry as precious as she is. Mr. Jeweler suggests that two months salary is the appropriate amount to consider spending to tell her he’d marry her all over again.
  • Jake is a young professional, at the beginning of his career. Jake has been advised to look successful in order to appear to management to be ready for promotion. Jake’s friends drink one of the mass advertised domestic beers. Jake has been affected by the advertising of an import positioned as higher quality.
  • Most advertising delivers images of what people say they want. Most advertising emotionally connects the those images things the advertisers sell. Cognitive dissonance adds the elements of guilt, regret, anxiety, or dereliction.

    Am I recommending the application of cognitive dissonance in your advertising?

    Maybe. Do you sell a premium product or service? For some premium products it’s a valid strategy. For most, it’s not.

    The stronger your position, the more likely you are to be noticed by high-probability prospects. It simultaneously eliminates the low-probability prospects. The stronger the dissonance, the better this strategy will work, if implemented properly. Taken too far the customer can be made to feel like a failure, and won’t buy at all.

    Of course, there are consequences to no image, too. Serious consequences.

    What’s your image? How strong is that image?

    Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who helps customers discover, and choose your business. Questions about the use of cognitive dissonance to create more successful advertising may be directed to

    (Via Chuck McKay, Fishing for Customers.)