12 Jan 2011
Polaroid kills Polaroid
Almost 75 years ago, Edwin Land founded the Polaroid Corporation, which, in 1948, brought instant photography to millions of homes. Last week, the new owners of the corporation - PLR IP Holdings -, with the help of Lady Gaga, killed off what the brand stood for
Last week, at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, after months of teasing, Polaroid finally unveils what it calls its Grey Label products, designed in association with its "creative director" Lady Gaga. Three products were announced - a digital, portable printer, a digital instant camera, and glasses fitted with a camera and two screens. While Lady Gaga was on stage, showcasing the new products, one Edwin Land was turning in his grave.
Back in 2008, when Polaroid stopped producing instant films, a strange thing happened. Faced with the news that the legendary square images might disappear, Polaroid fans rushed to buy the last packs, while others looked at ways to save the medium. Polaroid's death certificate also meant its rebirth.
I'm a realist. I understand that a big corporation like Polaroid might not see the financial benefits of a niche market - especially if you spent millions of dollars buying the brand after its former owner got caught for running a Ponzi scheme. But, did PLR IP Holdings really had to "molest the corpse of Polaroid", as Mic Wright writes?
Lady Gaga unveils the new Polaroid glasses. Image courtesy of Polaroid.
I understand that PLR IP Holdings might not want, or might not be able to relaunch a line of instant film products. The Impossible Project, which employs a lot of former Polaroid developers, chemists and engineers, has taken two years to release semi-decent products and is just starting to get it right. But, seriously, digital glasses?
Lady Gaga is a very special artist, and I admit, I'm not surprised that she came up with such a product. I can see how these glasses would fit in one of her concert - imagine thousands of fans wearing those during her show, automatically taking and displaying pictures of Lady Gaga as she does the same with her own glasses. I'd be interested to see the result. But, who, at Polaroid, thought that was a sound commercial idea?
Maybe these glasses are just an eccentric and egocentric product to satisfy an eccentric and egocentric star, but, when I look at the other two products released, I can't help but think that PLR IP Holdings just doesn't know what to do with the Polaroid brand.
The new Polaroid GL30 digital Instant Camera. Image courtesy of Polaroid.
The fact that Polaroid unveiled a digital Instant Camera and digital Instant Printer just shows a lack of imagination from the brand's new owners. These two products already exists. They've been around for almost two years now. The Zink technology, on which these products are based, was even created by Polaroid when the firm realised, around 2005, that it needed to embrace digital. But, I have yet to see anyone that I know use the three digital printers and cameras that have already been released in the past couple of years.
Does PLR IP Holdings know something we don't? Are they counting on Lady Gaga's name to sell its products? Are they counting on a major marketing push to make us believe we need a portable device that will allow us to print mobile phone images? I thought people, especially Polaroid's target audience, only shared these images on Facebook nowadays.
In the end, PLR IP Holdings is free to do whatever it wants with what it owns. But I can't help but feel sorrow when I see an iconic brand fall this low. Not only was the iconic Polaroid Collection destroyed to help pay creditors, now we must suffer the sight of Polaroid-branded camera glasses, which the firm says express "true artistry and originality."
Polaroid is dead. Simple as that.
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