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Disruptive Innovation Can be an Opportunity and not Just a Disaster: Case Study: Fujifillm Vs. Kodak

According to Yuichi Itabashi, GM of Fujifilm’s e-Strategy Management Office (Jan 2019 Interview).

Fujifilm is a living example that disruptive innovation can be an opportunity as well as a risk. The company not only survived the disruption of the film and analog photography, but it also executed a successful transformation by taking its in-house expertise in chemical compounds and applied it in new ways entering new markets like cosmetics, healthcare products, pharmaceutical products, computer tapes for datacenters back-up, and of course for digital cameras.

In Heiferman & Sivan’s e-book “Doing Digital,” (Hebrew) they also describe (in chapter 5) the disruptive innovation model as defined by Prof. Clayton Christensen and use the Kodak vs. Fujifilm case studies as examples of how different approaches to the disruptive innovation led Kodak to miss the digital opportunity and Fujifilm to take this opportunity and thrive in the long-term.

Yuichi Itabashi, Fujifilm

How did they do it? In an interesting interview titled “How Fujifilm lives by the maxim: never stop transforming” published on January 2019 by the i_CIO magazine, Yuichi Itabashi, the general manager of Fujifilm’s e-Strategy Management Office, provides some insights to this challenging journey. As he says, it was not an easy transformation and sometimes even a terrifying nightmare. But the bold reaction of Fujifilm’s executive management saved the company from a similar destiny as Kodak’s that had to close its photographic operation in 2012. Fujifilm has transformed from a photographic oriented company into a diversified technology company with about 283 subsidiaries and a wide range of product lines.

As a diversified technology company, new challenges raised “how can it best gain visibility in the market for this vast array of products?” They decided to implement a bold digital marketing strategy and started by establishing the e-Strategy office in 2011 as part of the company’s headquarter. With so many subsidiaries and different product lines, the creation of joined-up thinking in digital marketing was necessary. From there they moved on to the e-commerce operations and worked to tie together the wide range of digital marketing activities and tools. They applied marketing automation tools and much more. As Itabashi says, he’s a great believer in the message he first heard from Prof. Philip Kotler, “Digitize or die.”

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