Abstract: Selling Photography to Hitler: Marketing Strategies of Kodak and Agfa in the Third Reich, 1933-1945

Berti Kolbow


The purpose of this paper is to understand how the business enterprises Agfa and Kodak adapted their marketing strategies to the political environment of the interventionist Nazi state. This was a time when many consumption good companies suffered from the state-driven reallocation of resources favoring the armament industry. However, Agfa, the national champion in photographic supplies, as well as the local subsidiary of the U.S.-based world market leader Kodak, expanded their production well into the war. First, this paper challenges mainstream research by arguing that Hitler's armament drive left room for high-quality, non-essential consumer goods such as photographic cameras and film as they fitted the regime's racial consumption policy, as well as its export-oriented economic policy. This allowed Agfa and Kodak to maintain their longstanding growth strategies by only slightly altering their product, pricing, and promotion concepts. Secondly, challenging the varieties of capitalism paradigm, this comparative study shows that despite coming from a competitive market system, Kodak was flexibly able to secure its room to maneuver in the interventionist framework of the Nazi state—the same way as the traditionally cooperative-minded yet increasingly "Americanized" Agfa.