Anatomy of a Corporate Video…Xerox Makes the World Simpler

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.

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