That's the kind of transformation Xerox is hoping for. Its recent digital efforts are attempts to bring words such as "fun," "energetic" and even "exciting" to its stalwart brand image of quality and reliability. The viral videos, employee blogging, virtual research islands, quirky humor and offbeat sponsorships are all meant to work to push Xerox's marketing and brand-image boundaries.
Its first viral video, "Extreme Offices," launched last month in Europe. It features an office that is overly productive thanks to the boss' adding something extra to the watercooler. The video racked up a million views worldwide in less than three weeks. "Frugal Color" is its newest effort; it uses three office-worker characters and oddball cost-cutting ideas such as a downloadable digital garbage-eating goat, "everything" templates and diversionary audio files all to poke fun at the argument that color copies are too expensive. Xerox agencies WPP Group's Y&R and sibling VML created the work.
Xerox: casual, cool?
Gary Peterson, analyst with market researcher Gap Intelligence, said the marketing changes go along with Xerox's strategy shift to reach the small- to medium-size business market. "Xerox is trying to humble itself a bit and put itself out in a more casual sense, saying, 'We're cool enough and small enough to handle your business,'" he said.
The viral and emerging marketing also figure into overall business strategies at Xerox, such as a more concentrated push around color processing and playing up its consulting services for document management.
But it's not easy for a marketer to change tactics and tones. It's true that hip consumer marketing may not have been a Xerox strength -- it's tried before and failed. When Xerox launched consumer inkjet printers in 2001, it used artist George Rodrigue's iconic Blue Dog image in a campaign that was resoundingly panned by critics and consumers. The products didn't do much better and eventually were pulled from production.
New message, not products
This time, however, the products are not new machines and services or even consumer-focused ones. Xerox is still reaching out to business buyers, and its own execs are the first to say that emerging media is just one component in the mix.
"Our use of online is growing, like everyone else. But overall we still use a balanced approach," said Barbara Basney, Xerox director-global advertising, who estimated annual online spending increases of about 20%. "It's not only that people are expecting [interactive experiences and entertainment], but it helps make your advertising message break through. It sets Xerox in a different place."
The Xerox videos, which come with download and embed buttons, have yet to cause a big pass-around or viewing surge. On YouTube, the Extreme Office postings have received several hundred views and a handful of comments.
"It's not going to happen overnight," Mr. Peterson said. "The thing that has made them an American standard company is this stoic, rock solid, old-school brand name. ... People still say they're going to 'Xerox' something when they're making copies."
Ms. Basney conceded the Xerox work does have a bit of "The Office" feel that's popular right now in online marketing from several tech companies. A mix of the popularity of the quirky humor in the hit TV show and a way for marketers to connect to office working consumers, campaigns including Microsoft's Office 2007 online web filmsand Kodak's Inkisit website also feature geeky office characters and offbeat humor. FedEx also has been employing the cheeky office parody for a few years now.