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A CMO’s View: Xerox CMO Shares Strategy Behind Re-Branding One Of The World’s Top Brands
Charged with the launch of Xerox's "Work Can Work Better" campaign, CMO John Kennedy shares what he's learned and what he hopes to achieve.
In the same way Kleenex has been synonymous with tissue, Xerox has owned the word for printed copies for more than half a century.
This year, the company launched a new branding campaign to expand its place — and the perception of its brand — across the several industries it serves.
“The new strategy and campaign idea — Work Can Work Better — places Xerox over a domain we are calling work in the broadest sense, which includes the evolution of the brand in a range of different industries from customer care to transportation,” says Xerox CMO John Kennedy.
Xerox’s new branding strategy involves an extensive ad campaign that includes print, TV and digital and the relaunch of Xerox.com.
“We believe that improving the flow of work is at the core of enterprise transformation and global progress,” says Kennedy. “It puts us squarely in the center of work, technology, productivity and efficiency conversations — right were where we belong.”
After serving as a Vice President of marketing for IBM Global Business Services, Kennedy joined Xerox in August of 2014. Since being named CMO, Kennedy has led the launch of Xerox’s new branding strategy. Today, he was generous enough to share what’s he learned during his first year at Xerox and what he hopes to achieve as the brand’s marketing lead.
1. Brands must be based on enduring ideas, not on the businesses that a company participates in.
2. Partner with different segments of the business when developing a brand idea, such as sales and HR.
- Selling cycles are long — so it should always be clear how and where your marketing activity is contributing to what part of the selling cycle at what time.
- Employees are often the face of the organization, so it’s important to enroll your employee population in everything that you do.
3. Role model change and transformation must occur within your own organization.
Amy Gesenhues: You were named Xerox CMO in August of last year. How was your first year with the brand?
John Kennedy: I’ve learned so much in one year, but the biggest thing I noticed was that today’s Xerox is essentially the result of two companies that had come together — the original document technology company coupled with the newer services side that came from the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS).
It’s well-known that Xerox is, and has been, a company in transition. My role as CMO is to lead the marketing and communications team in supporting that transition by developing strategic and user-centric content that attracts the interest of C-level executives, and influencing purchasing decisions reflective of the buyer’s journey today.
Amy Gesenhues: How do define the Xerox brand?
John Kennedy: Xerox is a brand and company that is in transformation. At its core, Xerox is an iconic company, almost 75 years old, with a legacy in technology. It is something that made Xerox such an important part of business history and led to incredible name recognition.
Today, we compete in a large and growing $400-billion market, with most of that growth coming from our services segment. And this growth is driven by the significant amount of change that’s happening not only in business but in the world — in healthcare, in transportation, in financial services.
As the business environment becomes more complicated and technologies shift, companies are increasingly looking for Xerox to help them manage their complex business processes and drive greater productivity.
Amy Gesenhues: What was the motivation behind the new brand strategy?
John Kennedy: Despite already being recognized as a leading global brand (Interbrand 2014 Global Best Brands Study), we have a significant opportunity to increase our brand awareness, consideration and advocacy — particularly on the services side of the business. It represents a gap in brand perception versus brand reality.
That knowledge of the perception gap directly influenced the creation of a new brand strategy that defines what makes Xerox authentic, differentiates us from the competition and makes us relevant to business and public sector leaders.
Our new strategy is built around ideas that are relevant to our entire business. But what’s most important about the new strategy is that it isn’t about document technology or services or anything else that we market or sell. This is about our customers and the shared belief that business shouldn’t be so much work.
Amy Gesenhues: Did any other company functions, beyond marketing, play a role in helping shape Xerox’s new brand strategy?
John Kennedy: The senior team was involved from the very beginning of our work on this strategy, and that was key to gaining their buy-in and support.
In our experience, when you show the C-suite and sales that you focused on learning more about the customer and in turn can speak to them in a more authentic, meaningful way, they’re apt to follow. We were fortunate that was the case with this strategy shift. The entire organization is excited about and inspired by the new strategy and expression.
It’s been almost a year-long process of collaboration, review and discussion. We’ve been fortunate to have the kind of time that’s been provided to work with the senior team and the Xerox Board of Directors, as well.
Our goal is that all employees understand, embrace and communicate our purpose — both what is Xerox and why is the work we do important. We’ll lean on our senior leaders to speak with as many employees as possible to get them energized and activated as brand ambassadors.
Amy Gesenhues: I know Xerox has rolled out an extensive campaign to launch the new brand strategy. What channels are you leveraging?
John Kennedy: In addition to TV and print advertising, we’re also revamping Xerox.com with new content types and focus areas at the forefront of the redesign.
Highly visual, shareable stories emphasize Xerox clients and their industries in a more personalized, easy-to-understand presentation. Dozens of new responsive and intelligent pages are devoted to Xerox’s services offerings to better reflect the company’s evolving business strategy.
We’re also examining our approaches with vehicles like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and continue to take risks, and meet and inspire our clients and prospects whenever they’re gathering and having discussions.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you share more about the relaunch of Xerox.com?
John Kennedy: The role of digital is also core to our entire effort. We’re very excited about the evolution of Xerox.com. For quite some time our Web traffic wasn’t reflective of our revenue, particularly in that traffic on services pages lagged far behind other areas, despite those offerings generating more than half of our revenue.
So we’ve set out to communicate and inspire through a uniquely Xerox user-centric digital experience – one that is more representative of our focus areas.
While an entire re-launch of a website, including site design, experience and technology platform, is significant in its own right, we know that websites today are just containers for content that can live anywhere on the social Web. An even bigger element to our digital strategy is our new content strategy.
Newly launched Xerox.com:
To drive this strategy, we hired a new digital leader, Josh Golden, who was previously the CMO at Story, a content agency based in New York. Practically speaking, we’re creating content that speaks directly to our customers, not about ourselves. And we’re doing it in part with bite-sized stories that make us relevant and easily understood.
Amy Gesenhues: On a social level, how do you guard your brand’s reputation while instilling an authentic “brand voice?”
John Kennedy: Social media is a two-way conversation, and a successful conversation can’t happen if one person isn’t listening. We’re sharing content, but more importantly, we’re listening to the conversations happening about and around our brand.
We’re constantly exchanging ideas with our followers and using their feedback to ensure we’re providing valuable insights that can help improve the way they work.
— Jacob Morgan (@jacobm) October 14, 2015
Amy Gesenhues: What metrics are you using to measure your brand’s strength?
John Kennedy: There are three metrics that I consider key markers of success for this launch:
- A shift in the way the world sees Xerox.
- Growth in the way our clients and prospects respond to us and are more open to doing business with us.
- Growth in the stature and contribution of the marketing and communications function as a result of having led this work.
Amy Gesenhues: One last question: Can you speak to how a long-standing, reputable brand like Xerox manages a new branding strategy and the challenges you have faced?
John Kennedy: While there’s certainly no shortage of challenges, I’d say these challenges are in fact unique in the sense that we’re trying to celebrate a heritage and continued leadership in document technology, while also showing an evolution as a services company that is literally changing the way the world works.
The obvious challenge is to evolve the Xerox brand into something that is broader than just printing and copying. The acquisition of ACS more than five years ago gave us an immense reach with our portfolio of services in particular, and it translated to Xerox meaning a lot of different things to a lot of different audiences.
At the same time, we’ve contended with the idea that our brand is synonymous with photocopying. So we not only needed to update the company’s image, but to give ourselves a North Star.
Other challenges were fairly predictable for a brand strategy shift of this magnitude: How do you get senior leadership on board? How will you roll out globally? How do you get so many work streams aligned? We’ve cleared many of those challenges in an extremely compressed time-frame — something we’re all very proud of.