An Analysis of the Rise and Fall of Polaroid

Why Consumers Love Instant Nostalgia

By: Veronica Pistek

Polaroid cameras now come in different varieties such as the Polaroid One Step. Credit:

As brands are continuously innovating in technology, and nostalgic advertisements are reaching consumers that long for the past, the opportunity has arisen for brands that lost popularity over the years to reinvent themselves. In particular, a brand like Polaroid has taken its journey of “rise and fall” to a new level through learning the balance between modern technology and retro design. 

The Polaroid Corporation pioneered the instant film camera for consumers since it first was founded in 1937. According to, the company began to “develop the field of light polarization” and soon made its way to produce glasses, ski goggles, and special goggles for the military.

Moving forward throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Polaroid kick started the ability to watch movies in 3D, and also conceived the very first instant camera. This instant camera has become the staple to its brand. 

Throughout the mid 1900s, varying models of the instant camera were born—ones that had automatic exposure control and electronic shutters. 

Later on, the polaroid camera innovated to self-develop in daylight, as well as adapted to the shrinking size and modern portability that other cameras were offering. However, the one thing that remained throughout all of these years is Polaroid’s position to “embrace the nostalgia inherent in our past, allowing us to embrace old technologies through new technologies and beyond.” 

Since Polaroid has stuck with their mission time and time again, this to me is the major reason why they were able to reinvent and revive their brand amidst the ever-growing technology market today. The Polaroid brand first recognized its threat of extinction in the 1990s as digital cameras were introduced to everyday users. 

According to, “From 2001 and 2009, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy twice.” They even went through 6 CEOS within 4 years. With fear in mind, Polaroid developed different tactics to expand their business. 

For instance, since the Polaroid camera is operated on film, it decided to branch out and create products like the Polaroid cube that takes hi-definition video and photos. Polaroid also expanded into the flat-screen television realm, putting a polarizer on every LCD television. The company even entered the tablet market, revolutionizing their ideals of instant sharing and enjoyment. 

Even as social media posts become the major outlet for people to share photographs, I am one of those consumers who still enjoys having a physical copy of a picture. To me, a Snapchat filter on a photo does not have the same impact as a physical Polaroid photograph. 

I currently own a mini Instax Fujifilm camera, as well as a Polaroid 600 One Step from the 1990s. When I take along these cameras on a trip, event, or an outing with friends, it brings a new sense of excitement. I feel as though I am able to capture a moment in time that only I will be able to cherish. 

The simplicity of pressing one button combined with the anticipation to see how the photo comes out brings an experience that can never be replicated by a digital camera or a cell phone. So, in my perspective, the Polaroid brand has created a camera that will forever be attached to the feeling of nostalgia—an emotional appeal that runs so deep that consumers are willing to spend money on new packs of film every month and purchase different models of Polaroid cameras.



Evans, Lisa. “How Polaroid Saved Itself From Certain Death.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 14 May 2014,




Telegraph, The. “How Polaroid Came Back from the Brink of Extinction.” Financial Post, 9 Dec. 2014,

Categories: Arts

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