A Solid Communication Platform? TEDMED Ad Shows How It Works

As the Xerox mistress of TEDMED last month, I learned a few lessons about how a strong communication platform can help create a distinctive brand voice that delivers a consistent brand message. The Xerox TEDMED 2012 program advertisement (shown here, since it only appeared in print during the conference) had one simple objective: convey our support, in a thoughtful sponsorship message, for the event and its purpose. 

While creating a “proud sponsor of” message may sound easy enough to accomplish, several other communication objectives come into play when deciding exactly how this ad should look and what it should say. The ad also illustrates what a solid communication platform can do to inform a campaign and why communication platforms are an important prerequisite to any marketing program.  A bit of background may be helpful before sharing what I learned from working with the Xerox team and our agency on this ad.

“Ready for Real Business” is what we call the Xerox master brand communication platform. It’s not a tagline, but a platform that tells customers what we do and what we provide – technology and services that help you manage your business functions better so you can focus on what you do best, your core business. It defines the rational or emotional territory that the brand intends to own over time. It forms the foundation for how we act, sound, and look in all internal and external communications. It frames how we do this in a consistent manner while providing the flexibility for each product and field marketing function to accomplish its goals.

While this simplifies the process a bit, to activate the platform you must answer three key questions:

  • What do customers do? What is truly core to their business?
  • How does Xerox help our customers do this?
  • How do our customers benefit as a result?

How well does the TEDMED 2012 ad accomplish this and meet the requirements of the communication platform? Pretty well, I think.  (Special thanks to Jason Bartlett here at Xerox, and the Roberts Communication team, for all their hard work that really hit the mark on this ad.) Here’s how I see it address each of the three key questions:

1) What’s core to the business of healthcare? — “Caring for people is the real business of health care.”
2) How do we help do this? — “…by working behind the scenes to free up resources and simplify the way people work.”
3) How do customers benefit? — “… ensure they have more freedom to deliver the level of care that everyone deserves.” (The last question/answer also supports the key TEDMED theme of exploring how to make the future of health and medicine happen today.)

Through the image and headline, the ad also creates a connection between a diverse audience of practitioners, medical students, entrepreneurs, public officials, educators, researchers, and administrators and Xerox, a company with a serious commitment to the healthcare industry. Rather than stethoscopes and scrubs, we picked an image that is medical but ambiguous — he could be a physician, researcher or other healthcare professional. However, he is someone intent on his activity and serious about what he is doing. Alignment between audience and message was really key here and hard to do when you bring other factors — like art selection with unlimited rights at a reasonable cost — into play. The headline is straightforward in its attempt to connect Xerox to the TEDMED audience by saying “Just like you, we’re here to make things better.”

The key lesson for me is about using language and imagery to evoke an emotional response, and how to do this while getting a message across that fits the parameters of a very specific communication platform — one intent on preserving the integrity of the Xerox brand. I have to confess, I’m an old product marketer. I’m all about the facts and getting straight to the point.  Isn’t that what B2B marketing is all about?

Who needs emotion to do that?

I think the ad demonstrates a beautiful answer to the question. It shows how you can deliver a message (Xerox is proud to sponsor TEDMED with a passionate commitment to the healthcare industry) in a simple, elegant manner that creates a warm, human bond with the reader. It’s a lot for one little ad to accomplish, and it think it does it quite nicely. I also think its a lesson more B2B marketers could learn: how to connect with prospects and buyers in a way that goes beyond jargon and hype to show how you really can help customers improve their business.

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