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Posted by: Frederik Balfour on October 13, 2009
I had something of a “Mad Men” moment during today’s re-launch event hosted by Polaroid in Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. Leggy models touting vintage Polaroid cameras prowled the room snapping candid shots of the guests, who watched with delight as the cameras spat out photographic paper on which their images magically appeared. Rather than spoil the nostalgia of the moment, the incessant flash from digital cameras and phones to record them moment made the quaint devices from the analog era seem even more special.
That, it seems is exactly what the owners of the Polaroid Brand are counting on. Production is expected to begin by the end of this year at a photographic paper factory in Enschede, Holland, as part of a plan to bring back analog photography in the digital age. For more on the paper factory check out “The Impossible Project” website. “This is the beginning of our instant analog directive that will span a family of products and return Polaroid to a relevant industry participant,” Giovanni Tomaselli, managing director of Salt Lake City-based Summit Global Group,
which has the worldwide license to design, produce and distribute Polaroid cameras, digital frames, film and Pogo printers, which allow you to print Polaroid format photos directly from any digital camera. He expects to achieve retail sales of $1 billion for Polaroid next year which will see the re-launch of several digital cameras as well.
The announcement came just five days after the last batch of existing Polaroid film passed its expiration date on Oct. 9. The new film will be produced at the Dutch factory that was originally one of three supplying Polaroid before they were shut down in 2008. The other two in Massachusetts which were shuttered after Polaroid filed for bankruptcy, will not be restarted, however.
Summit, with careful guidance from the executives of PLR IP Holdings, a global licensing and marketing company which earlier this year bought the Polaroid brand and its intellectual property, including a wonderful archive of old television commercials [here is a great video of the 1960s TV ad with bikini-clad Ali McGraw strutting the sand with a Polaroid Swinger camera before she became a Hollywood star] and promos featuring Muppets heartthrob Kermit the Frog. When next year’s marketing campaign launches, Polaroid plans to cater to the nostalgia for a technologically less fettered era.
The resuscitation of Polaroid is being spearheaded by a group of investors, led by Boston-based Gordon Brothers Group, and Hilco Consumer Capital Corp. of Toronto, along with Tomaselli, paid $66 million for 75% of the brand and Intellectual property [creditors to the Polaroid estate get the other 25%] and another $20 million for the company’s remaining assets. “The balance sheet was broken, but the brand wasn’t,” Stephen Miller, President of Gordon Brothers Brands Division told me. The group has licensing deals with distributor of lesser known Polaroid products, including its line of night vision binoculars and telescopes.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.