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Why Xerox’s brand needs to keep up with its products

brand differentiation brand differentiation
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John Kennedy, CMO of Xerox, explains to Hot Topics how brand differentiation can help a company evolve.

Fundamentally, marketing is about brand differentiation.

A brand is nothing but a shortcut to help a business or a person make a decision, and the more brand differentiation you have, the clearer cut the choice is.

The more differentiated the brand, the higher the likelihood that you can charge a little more. It really is that simple.

There’s a difference between when you’re trying to differentiate a chewing gum say, where you can differentiate using flavors or celebrity endorsements, than when you’re trying to differentiate a company. When you’re the CMO in B2B, there are many more moving parts.

Your marketplace can’t hold all the various pieces of your business in their head, they’re looking for a concise way of remembering your values as a company, versus breaking it down into it’s many arcane pieces.

GE is a great example; they’ve evolved from this portfolio of big industrial components from locomotives, to energy plants, to power turbines and jet engines, and they’ve built it around this idea of industrial imagination and invention.

At IBM, brilliant what they’ve done there, taking IBM from this infrastructure, hardware data center company, to much more front office innovator around these big domains of security, analytics and mobile.

I’m facing a similar challenge at Xerox: people still think of Xerox exclusively as a photocopying company and we need to change that image.

Today we are one of the largest business process outsourcing companies in the world, but our brand reputation hasn’t kept up with the reality of our portfolio.

To change that you’ve got to understand the company’s history, you’ve got to understand the company’s strategy, you have to take into consideration what the CEO thinks and the senior team, how they think of the company and try and weave that all together.

To achieve that we’re launching brand campaigns like our latest one: ‘Work can work better’.

What might seem a little contradictory is that even though we have a brand identity problem, we just launched a new brand campaign that was nothing about Xerox.

Although this may seem counterintuitive, we live in a world today where everyone is bombarded with promotion, where everyone is promoting themselves, and our audiences have tuned out.

‘Work could work better’ is less of a campaign about Xerox, and more of a point of view around what we think is wrong with the world of work today.

People are more likely to pay attention to that message, and it’s a better jumping off point in conversation; talking about what’s going on in the world, rather than: “Let me tell you about myself.”

One of the other issues we had with Xerox was that, in the past, by talking about Xerox we had fallen into the trap of splitting the company into 2: as a document technology part and business services part.

You end up talking about a part of the company that’s the future, and a part of the company that’s the past.

So instead of talking about 2 things, we tried to find a brand that would unite Xerox under 1 banner, and find a set of themes that all of the employees could relate to.

That’s why we’re trying to turn Xerox into a company that really understands the flow of work, and how to make work flow better.

We’re very good at understanding how those processes work and deconstructing them and reconstructing them so that they work better; we call that a business-engineering mind set.

If you’re on the outside and you’re thinking about Xerox as a company that improves the flow of work, it’s a little easier thing to hold in your head than: ‘the printing company that’s trying not to be a printing company.’

The internal alignment of this strategy actually took a lot longer than the external, consumer-facing aspects of the transition.

At the beginning we had to internally educate our staff and explain why we needed to make a change.

Before I arrived there was the mindset that re-branding meant going from 1 idea to another, but that wasn’t going to work for us.

The idea that Xerox is a printing company is too entrenched; Xeroxing is practically a verb! So we had to find a new idea that simultaneously embraced the past, as well as the future.