$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
Company: FedEx Corp.
Years in current job: 9
Quote: In an economic downturn, marketing “messages become even more important. You don't go dark.”
Last December FedEx Corp. was still running its “Relax, It's FedEx” campaign, and Laurie Tucker wasn't feeling at all at ease.
"Relax' has got to go,” the FedEx Services senior VP-corporate marketing said to herself. “None of us is relaxed—not about the economy, not about political change. Even the humor had to change.”
In January FedEx unveiled “We Understand,” a campaign with a different tone and a starkly different media plan: For the first time in 18 years, FedEx would sit out the high-profile Super Bowl, deciding it couldn't justify the expense.
The new campaign, created by longtime agency BBDO, New York, with media by OMD, included three TV spots rather than six or more, as it might have in years past. It also featured online, radio, print and direct to consumer.
The “We Understand” tag was originally used to launch the PGA Tour FedExCup two years ago, and it allowed the company “to move into this new challenging area,” Tucker said. Not only does the message reflect empathy toward its customers, it also has breadth—showing all the things FedEx can do for customers, including providing easy and economical shipping and services.
In the “Nordic Tuesday” spot, for example, employees shiver in their office as they huddle around a fire. “Carol, when you replaced Casual Friday with Nordic Tuesday, was it really to have fun, or was it to save heat?” an employee asks. The FedEx man promptly arrives and informs Carol that FedEx can save the company money so it doesn't have to turn off the heat.
The message hit close to home: For the fiscal year ended May 31, FedEx reported net income of $98 million, down from $1.13 billion the previous fiscal year.
Tucker said she found other ways to stretch her marketing dollars. In July, FedEx introduced a series of offbeat, Web-only videos featuring actor Fred Willard as the host of a mock infomercial called “1-2-3 Succeed.” In the five three-minute films, Willard applauds the company's services in a faux talk-show setting. The videos appear on a YouTube channel as well as on FebEx's Web site.
“In three minutes you can say so much more than you can in 30,” Tucker said, noting that, so far, the videos have generated 536,000 views and that the company hopes to create more.
One thing that remained unchanged this year was FedEx's emphasis on sports marketing. Tucker said it continues to boost in-game mentions through its sports commitments, which include NASCAR, the NFL and the PGA Tour.
Looking back, Tucker said one of her biggest challenges this year was rebranding FedEx Office. Even though FedEx purchased Kinko's five years ago, it wasn't until this past June that it began a retail-store rollout with local marketing. “The economic times drove that decision,” she said, adding, “In the future, we want to be a little bit bolder about FedEx Office and what the brand means. We'll take what you make, and make it happen.”