Sunday, October 03, 2004

Products that "Do the Rest"

From The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen:

Cameras were invented in the 1820s. Why did it take roughly sixty years for them to become popular? The answer, I believe , is embedded in teh slogan used by Kodak to introduce their first camera in 1888: "You press the button -- we do the rest." When they were first invented, cameras were very complicated to operate. Then George Eastman reduced their operation to a three-step process: pull the cord, advance the key, and press the button. Eastman also understood that to appeal to mass markets, he needed to offer a simple development process. So the Kodak camera came loaded with film for a hundred exposures, and when the roll was done, the customer just mailed the whole camera to the company for development. Eastman demystified the process for thousands of people who knew about photography but previously perceived it as a complex process for only professional photographers and serious hobbyists. Eastman also understood the importance of communicating the simplicity of the innovation. To write the product manual, he hired a New York advertising man but ended up crafting the copy himself (in less than five hours), because the advertising executive, according to Eastman, "utterly ignored" the simplicity of the camera. By the mid-1890s, just a few years after its introduction, one hundred thousand Kodak cameras had been sold. "The craze is spreading fearfully," the Chicago Tribune wrote about the new camera.