Anatomy of a Corporate Video…Xerox Makes the World Simpler

From “A World Made Simpler” – all rights reserved Xerox Corporation.

What happens when a globally recognized brand needs to change what it means?

This is the fantastic challenge facing our CMO, Christa Carone, as Xerox evolves from “the copier company” into something more – a company dedicated to providing simple answers to complex business problems.  Last week, Xerox introduced a new video that highlights how where the company has been shapes where it is today and where it will go tomorrow.

Through advertising agency Y&R, Xerox teamed with visual storytelling studio, Psyop, and production company, Blacklist, to produce “A World Made Simpler… by Xerox” – a 2-minute video that uses printer paper, stop-motion photography, and a bit of computer-generated graphics to tell Xerox’s story. I think you will be surprised to learn what the copier company does to help doctors monitor patients and deliver better care, set up call centers during natural disasters, provide tamper-proof drug packaging, and make public transportation easier.

Xerox also published a “behind the scenes” look into how Y&R, Psyop, Blacklist and the Xerox team produced this video.  As you watch both the original and the background versions, I think there are a few key lessons B2B marketers can learn about storytelling and why video is such a compelling medium in B2B communication:

1) History matters – so stick with it. Chester Carlson invented xerography almost 75 years ago for one simple reason: finding an easier way to replicate and share information. Xerox embraces this legacy by using what people know us for — paper — to tell a story about what most don’t know us for — providing services that make business simpler. Many will look at the video and say “it’s all about the paper” — which is exactly the point. Having a strong sense of who you are as a company helps you to remain true to your brand identity even as that identity changes. And it also makes for a mesmerizing experience as you watch to see what the paper will unfold to reveal next.

2) Video illustrates intangibles. The value of IT services — and why a company would outsource parts of its business to another — is sometimes difficult to understand. Rather than bury the message in meaningless techie jargon or hyperbole, the video uses concrete examples of ways Xerox solves customer problems (without specifically naming names) to show how we’ve moved beyond our technology roots.

3) Emotion and B2B marketing are not mutually exclusive. The production of “A World Made Simpler” is inspiring and surprising without being overbearing or maudlin. It evokes an emotional response to some very important problems that we relate to easily.  

If I have any criticism, I wish that the behind-the-scenes explained more about the motivation behind developing the spot.  Xerox bought Affiliated Computer Services in 2010 to expand business opportunity beyond its document reproduction origins, but now faces the challenge of communicating the new Xerox without losing the old. That’s the business problem behind a story worth telling.  A bit more transparency into that challenge would make the “inside view” video more interesting to me than watching technical details about the production. Alas, a fascination with technology is something Xerox will never leave behind, and the how-we-did-it video remains true to this cultural quirk.

Video also represents a great opportunity to receive peer recognition.  Congratulations to Barbara Basney and team for winning AdWeek’s coveted “Ad of the Day” for A World Made Simpler. Watch both and let me know if you agree — it’s the right step toward writing a new chapter in the Xerox brand story.

Xerox Asks TEDMED: What can we do to simplify healthcare?

TEDMED 2012 – courtesy of TEDMED Facebook page

Last week TEDMED 2012 was an amazing experience. More than 200 phenomenal speakers and entertainers took the stage to explore challenging issues in healthcare and to inspire innovative, cross-disciplinary thinking. Many of the topics – that I will share with you as TEDMED makes the videos available over the coming weeks – are complex, complicated, and sometimes controversial. Is it even possible to make thing simpler in the business of healthcare? It’s a challenging question when posed to an industry recognized for complexity in the study, processes, technology, and science needed to advance new therapies and address increasingly more complex diseases, health problems, and social issues.

During the past couple of months, I’ve had the great fortune to work with an exceptional TEDMED team to engage Xerox as a sponsor of this unconventional event.  Healthcare? You may wonder where Xerox fits in this world, besides supplying printers at nurse stations, doctor’s offices, and admissions desks. Though my TEDMED journey, I’ve learned a bit about how Xerox plays a surprisingly diverse role inside the research, clinical and operational side of healthcare.  Here’s how:

Helping caregivers.  Through its investment in innovation and research, Xerox employs ethnographers who study how caregivers work. These folks help to develop solutions that can free floor nurses from paperwork so they can spend more time with patients.

Reducing complications.  Xerox helps hospitals convert mountains of clinical data and health history into electronic format and monitor it to assess risk and prevent potential emerging complications. For example, we use text-mining technology to analyze information such as symptoms, drugs prescribed, and types of bacteria found in the environment to help detect and prevent hospital-acquired infections.

Going electronic.  It always amazes me how much paperwork still exists in healthcare. Besides transforming paper charts to electronic records, we deliver them to mobile devices and the Cloud securely. Electronic medial records not only reduce the cost and trouble of managing truckloads of documents, but helps providers better coordinate treatment and therapy across everyone involved in a patient’s care.

Our Chief Innovation Officer for Healthcare, Markus Fromherz, goes into a bit more detail if you are interested in what else we do.

Despite these accomplishments, it is humbling for me to listen to the speakers at TEDMED – and talk with other delegates – and see first hand how much work truly remains to be done. I am proud to see Xerox join the TEDMED community and work to simplify the business of healthcare.

What is TEDMED? – Lessons Learned on Corporate Sponsoring

TEDMED is the medical version of TED. This unique 3-day event applies the successful TED format to the world of healthcare. Hosted next week (April 10 – 13) in Washington DC, TEDMED stands to become the nation’s premier gathering where folks from inside and outside the world of medicine. Delegates explore key issues and think up new, out-of-the-box ideas for solving some very big challenges facing our nation as healthcare becomes the largest line item in our GDP. It is a multi-disciplinary collaborative experience that aims to develop a lasting community – not just an annual event —  dedicated to imagining how we can make the future of healthcare happen today.

For me, TEDMED is also a crash course in corporate sponsorship. Back in January, I moved over to Xerox corporate to head up industry marketing across the enterprise. Coincidentally, Xerox had signed up to sponsor TEDMED as one way to continue to demonstrate our long-standing commitment to healthcare innovation and to simplifying the business of healthcare. So, guess which new kid on the block got the nod to activate this sponsorship?

It’s been a thrilling, busy, exciting time acting as the head mistress of all things TEDMED at Xerox. Here are a few lessons I’ve collected along the way regarding advertising, event management, and message communication:

  • A well-planned creative brief is essential to any large event or sponsored program. So is a detailed program plan. But the brief is the centerpiece for communicating what you plan to do, with whom (audience), why, and what you want to convey in the process (message).  It’s the scaffolding that supports the whole event and makes a myriad of decisions flow smoothly. Other key elements include: proof points/evidence, creative mandatories and key assets to draw upon.
  • Avoid the temptation to view advertising and messages through your eyes, not the audience’s. I was surprised at how easily I fell into this trap. I’ll share the ad with you in a later post – after it’s aired at TEDMED – but the key was to appeal to the full TEDMED audience, which includes educators, lawmakers, inventors, medical students, investors, and health activists.  Pictures of people with stethoscopes looking at x-rays cast too narrow a net.
  • Hire a good meeting planner. This is very tactical, but very necessary. Meeting, incentive and travel firms – like our partner BCD M&I – make life easier, handle all the tricky last minute details, and keep you from going bonkers.  Perfect example of why outsourcing client registration and travel to experts is essential and cost effective.
  • Get your friends to help out. In this case, help comes from our friends at FORTUNE magazine, who will co-sponsor a dinner event for our guests, Xerox executives, and select delegates. Besides wonderful counsel on great places to eat in Washington DC, FORTUNE (more importantly) adds provocative conversation as Marc Gunther, contributing editor, MCs dinner commentary.
  • Small details can make a big difference. Case in point, as one of the major sponsors for TEDMED this year, we worked closely with our hosts to ensure delegates see Xerox equipment when they queue up at registration. Will anyone notice?  Maybe not.  But, then again, what if they do? If you are a major sponsor, you need to make sure to sweat the details and act like a major supporter, not just someone contributing their name to the program.

There are 20 more lessons I could add to this list. But this experience proved to me that successful corporate sponsorships have been and will continue to be a useful and productive way to get your company’s name and message in front of a key audience – industry-specific, role-based or otherwise. The best lesson I have learned, however, it that the folks at TEDMED are very, very committed to being the best partner to their sponsors. It’s very easy – and productive – to work with a team that is always willing to say “yes” – but who have a solid vision and purpose that helps to keep you on the straight and narrow as you work to provide the most differentiated, exciting, and memorable experience for our delegates.

Like Xerox, I am a proud sponsor of TEDMED 2012  — and so very excited to be there next week!

PS: For a sample of the TED experience, go to this link and watch the presentation.  It will blow your mind.

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