Sunday, August 29, 2010

Polaroid Comeback Gets A Lift

The life, death, and resurrection of the Polaroid brand has been well documented and lamented in the last couple years, especially by me. After the good people at the Impossible Project took the first tentative steps to saving the original Polaroid process, the company that started it all is potentially poised to make a comeback. The first step towards that comeback is the introduction of their first new production line, instant film camera - the PIC 1000.

My deep love of the Polaroid line goes way back, and they are the company I would most like to work for in terms of product development as well as marketing and branding. It seems that due to poor leadership, a distinct lack of understanding has developed towards their audience. Their customers are like me - artists/designers/nostalgics/young creatives/etc. who are absolutely enthralled with everything about the traditional Polaroid experience - the noise the shutter makes, the white border format, the time it takes to develop, the incredibly beautiful saturation of the images it so magically produces. For a long time (and even now) the people running Polaroid don't seem to having any understanding of this, and attempt to "update" the brand for a contemporary, digital audience by producing homogeneous/boring/indistinguishable products through a pixel-based medium.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to go out and buy a Polaroid digital that doesn't offer any of the sentimentality or fun - fun is a term that Polaroid exclusively owns in the photography business - of the original brand. Nobody. Their is no appeal in it. Even when they attempt to combine new, digital technology with the instant photo print template, they screw it up. The evidence of this is the new Polaroid Insta-Print. Had they sought to replicate the inherit charms of the original Polaroid experience - those instantly recognizable white borders, the autumnal colour, the unmistakable Polaroid flash lighting - people might respond to the product. These descriptors are for all intents and purposes the Polaroid brand - these are the real assets of the company itself. Instead, the camera produces bland, printed-at-Walgreens, completely-devoid of personality "shots". And nobody, nobody buys a Polaroid product to engage in a meaningless, boring, anonymous activity.

So that leads us to the PIC 1000. It seems that someone at Polaroid has at least a little understanding of their audience by creating a Polaroid product that:

A. Looks and feels familiar to the user and
Actually embraces the retro appeal and enjoyment of the original.

The all silver plastic version is OK, but the wood grain version is awesome, such a big step in the right direction. It is clearly related to the late 70's, early 80's SX-70 Series models that didn't have a hinge to flip open, but were always ready to shoot.

No word yet on when film will go into production, but at least these prototypes show some rudimentary understanding of their audience. I can't find a release date on the PIC 1000 but I know that I will be the first in line to try to pick one up.