Have you ever noticed that portraits from the 1800s seem stilted? I dare you to find a pre-Civil War portrait with a smiling subject.

Contrast that with today, where photos are used to show happy moments in our lives. Look around your home. See all the happy beach shots? The fun family times? Heck, on social media, we even go so far as to over-emphasize the joy … making our lives look happier and more interesting than they really are.

So why the change? Why don’t your Snapchat selfies put bunny ears on a serious face?

­­In the 1800s, cameras were not a household item. If you wanted to capture the memory of your family, you had to hire a professional photographer to take your portrait. In fact, it was also commonplace to have portraits made of your deceased loved ones to commemorate them before they were interred. Portraits were for the wealthy. They were special.

Photos were a serious occasion. It was not proper to smile, especially in upper-class society. Photographic portraits were simply faster version of the old painted portraits.  Also, old cameras had long exposures and subjects had to remain still for extended periods of time. It was awkward and uncommon to think that any given moment would be captured forever on film.

Old Kodak Vacation AdThen, in the late 1800s, Kodak created a small camera with a portable roll of film. Suddenly, anyone with the economic means could capture photos of anything that they wanted. But remember, this was a new technology. People were used to the idea of taking one portrait every few years, not taking pictures every day. Kodak ultimately wanted to sell more film, so they needed Americans to get snapping.

Kodak’s marketing team went to work. They came up with the slogans like, “You press the button, we do the rest,” and, “Save your happy moments with Kodak.” They created manuals on how to use your new camera that including taking photos on vacation … and SMILING when your picture is taken. Kodak wanted people to associate these new photos with joyful times. Consumers listened, and soon, all advertisers were using pictures of smiling models to sell their goods. Now, smiling is expected … and we take pictures of everything … your dinner, your dog, your feet on the beach.

Kodak focused, not on the camera or film, but on HOW and WHEN to use it. They created demand for a product that the world didn’t know it wanted, and they didn’t focus on the actual product!

How do you sell your loans, checking and savings? Do you focus on the product or on how and when to use it? Do you think your customer really wants a car loan more than they want to inhale that new car smell? Do you think they want a checking account more than the ability to spend their money faster and easier? What else do your customers want that you can create a market for? Can you help them to spend smarter or save better?

If Kodak can singlehandedly take the world from stone-faced portrait to goofy selfie … all to sell more film, you can help the world with their money … all to be a better banking option.

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