The Art of Evolving A Big Company Brand

It’s pop quiz time, folks.  Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say?:

BMW           (ANSWER:   ”The ultimate driving machine.”)

Nike            (ANSWER:   ”The swoosh.”)

Apple          (ANSWER:  ”Products designed to be incredibly desireable.”)

Xerox   –   Yeah, yeah… “The copier company….”

This little experiment into bad game-show trivia demonstrates how difficult it is to change well-recognized, deeply-ingrained brand perceptions.  For many people, Xerox will always be the copier company. Although half of our annual revenue now comes from helping other companies shed business process burdens and focus resources more on what they do best.

Last month, I had the pleasure of sharing some steps in my current journey, on the quest to move public perception of Xerox from the old to the new, with a great group of marketers at the ANA Business-to-Business Committee Meeting, held in lovely San Jose, California.  The basic objective of the presentation — that you can find here on Slideshare – was to explain how we adapt Ready for Real Business (our company communication platform) to specific industries (in this case healthcare) to demonstrate that Xerox has been — and will continue to be — about making business simpler. 

Can Xerox make the transition from “the copier company” to something more?

For marketers, the lesson is crucial – develop your brand and be true to it.  In the second half of the day, Intel presented its story behind the new “die” logo and brand image.  The presentation began by contrasting firms that struggled with brand image (think Burger King versus McDonalds) against their more successful counterparts.  I thought it was VERY interesting to have these two presentations open and close the day.  (Nice job, ANA folks!)

During my presentation, I explained how Xerox uses affiliate advertising to tell our services story and highlighted our surprising success with online video storytelling.  I then showed how we evolved this top-level positioning into what we call the “Freedom to Care” campaign, which features our engagement with conferences like TEDMED and the World Healthcare Congress, by engaging in earned and purchased social activity, and with MESC 2012 (the renamed Medicaid conference.)

Key lessons learned through these travels so far? I would say:

  • Be persistent, not impatient. Evolving a brand is a years-long process, so don’t whipsaw your strategy around if the immediate pay off doesn’t surface. 
  • Put the focus on your clients.  If your marketing talks about what’s important to their core business and to their customers, you will be more relevant and your message will get through faster.
  • Top-notch brands are disciplined. Marketers who steward them apply consistent effort and investment. And they are not afraid to be a bit repetitive in their communication.
  • Get everyone singing the same song.  In really big firms (those that have really big brands), cross-business line collaboration is key. Lead business lines by example, it’s easier than trying to be the brand police.
  • Digital technologies help to speed up the process. Of course, it’s always best to integrate marketing into a consistent set of messages and offers/promotions that cross traditional and online channels.

Did my message matter?  I think so –  the folks at ANA let me know today that attendees rated my presentation the highest of the day.  Yay for me, but more importantly “yay” for the marketers who can marry the art and science of brand evolution in ways that stay true to company value but adapt to changing times.

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