The business name Kodak “was simply invented—made up from letters of the alphabet to meet our trade-mark requirements. It was short and euphonious and likely to stick in the public mind.” – Mr. George Eastman
First we wanted to start this post with a quote on business naming by the brilliant Mr. Eastman himself. It’s important to recognize that this statement is something you would hear in a brand development meeting today. However, this was a quote from the 1920’s referring to his decision to invent the business name to accompany his new venture.
Let’s take a quick step back though and give a little background to this amazing inventor. George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company in 1888. His business model was based on his many improvements to the camera and more importantly, the film for said cameras. In fact, Eastman’s company received the first Patent for rolled film. And, if you’re as old as many of us here, you know the experience of placing the film roll and pulling it across the camera into the teeth, so it can be wound up and ready for your shots.
Eastman and his research and development team are responsible for dozens, if not hundreds of new improvements and products for the camera and film industry. With that said, Eastman wasn’t just creative and an inventor in the lab. Eastman had a great idea to coin catchy slogans and phrases to go along with his new products and improvements.
Inventing New Industries Not Just Products
Catchy slogans like having a “Kodak moment,” and “you press the button, we do the rest” all created by Eastman himself, helped catapult the Kodak company to huge success. Kodak became the undisputed industry leader in all things camera and film related.
As if you need more evidence of Mr. Eastman’s brilliance, the business name Kodak itself was an invention of the inventor. Eastman loved the letter “K” due to it’s strong sound, stating “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” Further adding, “I devised the name myself. The letter ‘K’ had been a favorite with me — it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with ‘K.’ The word ‘Kodak’ is the result.”
Decades before branding, marking, and startup naming became “a thing,” Eastman was blazing a trail. Like any Brand Development expert, he stated that his business name “should be short, easy to pronounce, and not resemble any other name or be associated with anything else.” This in 1888!!
Trade Dress Started at Kodak
Eastman was hardly done there! Eastman at Kodak is credited with being the first company to incorporate, their business name, look, symbol and colors into a recognized “trade dress” in 1907!
We should all be as smart and creative as George Eastman. If you’d like to learn more about the history behind the Kodak Company and the groundbreaking people there, checkout more incredible Kodak history here. There’s actually a lot more Eastman did for both the film and Branding Development industries!