The business world is grappling with economic uncertainty as we head towards the end of 2008, but Eastman Kodak chief business development officer and VP Jeffrey Hayzlett does not sweat over economic indices. Hayzlett, who will serve as general chair of the 31st John Caples International Awards, which will be presented by DMNews in March, joined Kodak in 2006 as CMO and VP of the company’s Graphics Communications Group. As the “CMO on steroids” — leading business development, corporate communications, public affairs, marketing, branding and a host of business-to-business and business-to-consumer products — Hayzlett is upbeat and enthusiastic about meeting his numbers and focusing on customers.
Over its nearly 130-year history, Kodak has weathered economic crises such as the Great Depression and recent challenges such as moving from a print-focused to digital-centric business. So, it’s no surprise that Hayzlett believes it will continue to meet today’s marketplace challenges, as he discussed in a recent chat with DMNews.
How is the economy affecting Kodak?
We kind of anticipated things and we’re sitting with a fairly good cash position as a business, pretty much in line with knowing we were headed for tough times. We started seeing [indicators] in our b-to-b side very early on.
So how did you respond?
When we talk about, for instance, our all-in-one inkjet printer, we concentrate on the value proposition. People are paying way too much for ink and you get a better value with Kodak’s printer because you save up to 50% on ink costs compared to our competitors. So, that’s where you start to focus the message — the value they get from our products. Our messaging has been spot on for that over the past few years, and that’s why we’re ahead of the curve right now.
What experiences enabled you to anticipate the economic downturn?
Kodak has experienced these types of economic downturns before. And, there are certain indicators that we watch continually — not just the economic and market trends, but also consumer buying patterns, retail trends, buying by the superstores and usage patterns. So, we look at a lot of different markers, which then help us alter methods, product lines or the way in which we go to market.
Is there a positive side to these challenges?
My belief is that times like these really help companies get focused on the core practices of marketing. I’m an old football player, and this is like when you started not doing well in football. The coach would always take you back to the basic drills and fundamentals of the game. This is very much like that. When you start to see economic conditions like today’s or wild fluctuations in the market, then it’s time to hunker down and get back to the basics.
What should direct marketers be doing now?
Businesses really need to focus in on their message and their value statements, and make these more relevant to the audiences they’re trying to reach. In tough economic times, marketers should focus less on brand and more on being direct in their value proposition. They need to be more relevant to the customer, so tools such as one-to-one marketing are going to be very effective in the next couple of quarters. They should be using all those analytic tools they’ve been investing in all these years.
What industry sectors will Kodak focus on next year?
For our consumer business, we’re focused on young people and women. We’re bringing more innovative products to market, like our popular new Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera. We’re also expanding the Kodak Gallery service so people can more easily share their lives with the billions of digital pictures taken each year. For our commercial businesses, we’re focusing more on the packaging, creative and transpromo markets. For instance, our new Kodak Flexcel Printing Plates address new opportunities within the packaging space, and our new Kodak Stream technology takes high-quality customized printing to the next level.
How are you making your brand more relevant to specific customers?
We do that by engaging in conversations online using a lot of Web 2.0. We were one of the first ones to name a “chief blogger.” She’s not controlled nor directed — she’s just out there to put our brand out there and be more visible in that online community. Another part of it is just in our product mix. We have the Kodak gallery — it has more than 70 million customers sharing billions of photographs, and it’s the second largest social network as well. On top of that, we use our own products in our Graphics Communications Group, the industry leading direct mail and variable print software. So, in our direct mail campaigns, still very much a growing market, we are able to get the key value propositions to the right people. And so what we’re doing is reducing segment marketing from broad segments to segments of one.