Rebooting the Xerox Brand: 5 Questions With VP Barbara Basney

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Xerox New York Stock Exchange rebrand 4 January 2017

It’s back to the future for Xerox and its brand as the company reckons with its new status as a document-technology company only.

In the wake of this week’s formal spin-off its business services unit as a standalone company in Conduent, Xerox marketers are tapping into the legacy benefits of their brand while also explaining to business customers and consumers alike exactly how Xerox is more than copiers.

This is a task that began this week with ringing of the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange by Xerox executives a day after their counterparts at Conduent did the same thing.

“This opportunity to introduce the next chapter for Xerox and introduce it to the new marketplace, is key and significant,” Barbara Basney, Vice President Global Brand, Advertising & Media at Xerox, told brandchannel. “We need a communications platform that supports our corporate strategic direction and frames Xerox and puts the right light on it.”

In that regard, “Brother Dominic” may be very helpful. In a new ad that pays homage to the company’s iconic “Brother Dominic” TV spot that debuted in 1976 during one of the most famous Super Bowl commercials of all time, Xerox puts a very modern twist on “Set the Page Free” — the iconic parable that underscores the leap it has made from making copies to a provider of document technology that can help companies and individuals communicate effectively and efficiently across a variety of digital and other platforms.

In the original ad, a monk turned to a Xerox copier to help him quickly and simply duplicate 500 copies of his original handwritten manuscript, to please his superior at the abbey. In the new “Brother Dominic” ad, shows a modern monk turning to Xerox technology to produce not only a variety of formats of his manuscript but to communicate it in many ways around the world, including automated translation into many languages and adaptation to many screen sizes.

Xerox Brother Dominic 1976 print ad

The ad “offers a nod to Xerox’s heritage, reflects our present and embraces our future by showing how Xerox has evolved to help companies connect from both the physical and digital world through personalization, apps, automation and security,” said Xerox CMO Toni Clayton-Hine in a press release.

Of course, Xerox’s marketing task is more daunting than just getting people to embrace a new version of Brother Dominic. CEO Ursula Burns has spent the last year unwinding a major acquisition that the company made in 2010 of a huge business services company, Affiliated Computer Services. The idea behind the original deal was to execute a major broadening of Xerox beyond its legacy copier-printer business. But the combination proved a reach too far, proving a bad business fit and confusing consumers and business customers.

Now detangled from the Conduent business services outfit, Xerox is an $11 billion company with a clearer identity but still a huge challenge ahead in translating its document technology offering to the world. brandchannel talked with Basney about how the company is handling that.

bc: It’s a new day, and a new campaign, for Xerox. What do you want people to understand?

Barbara Basney - XeroxBarbara Basney (right): We’re launching a communications platform that reflects the brand today and gives us a chance as the company grows in the future but also with a wink to the past. We decided on a powerful platform with the tagline, “Set the page free.” Even since the inception of the 914 copier, Xerox was always about innovating the way the world communicates and works. And that’s with us today.

This can mean a printed page or a digital page and all the different manifestations of it. This also gives us the latitude to talk about all the other things we’re doing today around personalization, apps, security and human-centric design. “Set the page free” is a beautiful articulation of who we’ve been and who we are as we continue. It’s also particularly relevant today because communicating more easily and quickly in our work is important.

bc: Before the split, some of your colleagues said that what Xerox needed to do next was sharpen the brand’s “profile and messaging.” Do you agree?

Basney: We are absolutely following that script. It was imperative to have a communications platform that  supports where today’s Xerox is going starting in 2017 as the company separates. Now there is a laser focus on digital document technology services and that’s what “Set the page free” is about — articulating meaning for that.

bc: Is it a challenge to change courses from the campaign two years ago, in which Xerox was touting that it’s an integrated company and a superior provider of business services as well as document technology?

Basney: It’s not a challenge. We’re excited for the opportunity. So many things have been happening on the software-technology side of the house. We’ve been quieter on exciting innovations that we’re bringing to digitization and imaging, and focused on things that you don’t think of Xerox for — and that has been a missed opportunity.

Now, as in the ad, we can highlight things about Xerox that perhaps haven’t been top of mind, such as the fact that we can translate instantaneously, in real time, into 35 languages; that we have apps that help workers be more productive; that we can print on objects. In the new ad, for example, we showcase some cardinals holding a mug with [Brother Dominic’s] message on it. We do intelligent packaging design that actually talks to you—so many things that we haven’t had the opportunity to talk about. And now we do.

bc: What reactions are you getting to the new Brother Dominic spot some 40 years later?

Basney: We tested it in seven countries. We wanted to make sure our communications would do its intended job. The results were extremely strong and positive. People liked the spot and it resonated with them. It positions Xerox as an innovative company transcending print and digital. It educates people about the things they didn’t know we did. And for the business decision-maker, they become more interested in Xerox as a partner.

bc: So where does the campaign, and the company, go from here?

Basney: We’re going to launch with this piece of film. And the campaign as it goes on will have a similar construct of our hero being set up with a formidable challenge, a herculean task given by his or her boss, and the idea of how Xerox can help that individual successfully deliver. The balance of the campaign we are working on now.

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