Xerox CEO: Stay relevant to stand out in the crowd

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Late last month, Anne Mulcahy, chairman-CEO of Xerox Corp., delivered a keynote at the American Marketing Association's Mplanet conference in Orlando, Fla. BtoB Editor Ellis Booker reached Mulcahy by phone to follow up on her speech, “Getting Heard in a Sea of Information,” and to ask how she views the role of marketing at Xerox. BtoB: In a recession, marketing is often the first budget item to get cut. Can you talk about how committed Xerox is to marketing during these challenging times? Mulcahy: Like any company, we're looking at every dollar we're spending and making sure that we're getting a great return from it. So I would begin by saying that I think the bar is raised in terms of our expectations for return on investment, which is, I think, incredibly important for marketing. Also, we're in a world that is changing pretty rapidly. We operate in 160 countries. A year ago, we would have been looking at some of the emerging markets as best-growth opportunities, and the reality is that some of that has changed as well. It's incredibly important to be making relevant choices about where the best investments are, and to be able to demonstrate return on those investments. BtoB: People are consuming messages differently than they were even a few short years ago. What are you seeing as a channel that either looks promising or that Xerox is using today? Mulcahy: People are being deluged by information. A lot of what I talked about [in my keynote] was the fact that the sources and supply of information are almost endless right now. There's a question as to how much of it actually is consumed. ... Clearly, we believe that digital media and one-to-one communications are rising above the clutter in terms of the impact they have, in terms of relevant, meaningful information that truly does get a response. BtoB: Your speech mentioned that technology has gotten us into this mess; technology might be able to get us out—a really lovely way of looking at the issue. How are you consuming media these days? Mulcahy: Like everyone else, I throw out a large portion of everything I receive in the mail, unless it actually is relevant and appears to be knowledgeable. To the degree I get a bill that has personalized data associated with it, I'll look at it. Clearly, I don't expect to get boilerplates. When I get boilerplate information, it goes in the trash versus something that's more relevant in terms of my own personal information. BtoB: In your keynote, you talked about that one-to-one aspect, which obviously applies to what one can do interactively. But you're also making the case that it makes sense in the physical realm as well, with print products, and direct mail and so forth. Mulcahy: Yes, and, you know, the evidence is overwhelming in terms of response rates, and time to revenue and loyalty rates that come from personalized campaigns versus static kinds of communication. BtoB: What do you see as the role of print media these days. What's your thinking about the future of newspapers and trade magazines, and what would you like the media companies to be doing for you that perhaps they're not doing? Mulcahy: Certainly there are applications and sources of paper-based media that are growing, and there are those that are declining. There is customized collateral—all sorts of personalized documents. But we believe that we're living in a cross-media world—that paper is simply one of the communications media required to reach whatever segment of the market you're going after. Cross-media, blended approaches really are the answer; and a lot of what we're doing for customers these days is helping them think about communications from a cross-media perspective versus just a single channel. I don't think any of us questions that paper's going to be part of the mix for a long time to come. It's growing in the next decade, expected to grow 30%, but more and more it will be tailored, personalized, full color and impactful. BtoB: You mentioned in your speech the vital importance of nurturing the brand, which, in Xerox's case, actually moved the ship from one place to another over time. Two questions on that. What role did marketing play? And second, anything we should be looking forward to? You mentioned the new logo, but is there anything you can telegraph to us? Mulcahy: Marketing really was the steward of the branding process that we went through. I talked about the importance of voice of customer, and that really was the center point of how and what the messages were around the new positioning for Xerox. It was hugely important and definitely a marketing-led approach. Apart from the logo [Xerox updated its logo in January, 2008] and the image being certainly more relevant and contemporary, it was absolutely, deeply supported by both customer and employee feedback. Interestingly enough, we launched our brand, our new logo and brand positioning for our employees first. And that really struck me as the right thing to do. It's so important that our employees feel the connection and the integrity of the brand messaging, so we wanted them to be the first to see it. We really worked hard to make sure that they embraced it, engaged it and literally could represent it in front of our customers well. In terms of what's new, we're excited about the new ad campaign that we're going to be launching shortly with a significant product introduction that's viewed certainly as the breakthrough. We're going to kind of take the new brand's positioning out on the road with a significant ad campaign that we think will be well-received. M
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