The reimaging of Xerox’s brand

Xerox has long been recognized for its office products and technologies. But its business has evolved significantly to include myriad business services, as well—everything from document management to IT and business process outsourcing. As its CMO, Christa Carone‘s main challenge is getting the public to recognize Xerox’s vast role as a services provider in the B2B space.

“Print is a rich and proud heritage for Xerox,” Carone says. “But more than half our revenue comes from our service business—one that is growing 6 to 8% a year.” Carone cites this as “an interesting brand challenge” and a “definite opportunity to shift consumers’ perception of the Xerox brand from the technology and copy company into one known for its business services.”

Xerox’s development as a B2B company began when the company acquired Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), an information technology services and business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions firm in 2009. The $6.4 billion acquisition married Xerox technology to ACS’s behind-the-scenes transactional processing services— a component of businesses that Carone says is “absolutely necessary, [yet] doesn’t get a lot of attention because it’s a back-office operation.”

Xerox is now in places that “probably surprise people,” Carone says. “When you call Virgin America to speak with one of its customer care agents, the person you speak with is probably a Xerox employee.”

Carone adds that it may be a Xerox employee processing your paper and digital health insurance claims and recent credit card applications, and it’s likely a Xerox employee who walked you through your last smartphone troubleshooting session.

Carone joined Xerox 13 years ago as a communications professional with a background in public relations. Over the ensuing decade, Carone’s communications roles expanded within Xerox to include media relations, then PR, and eventually marketing.

September will mark her fourth year as Xerox’s CMO, a position she describes as thrilling, given the opportunity it provides her to integrate communications—a field she has an admitted bias to as “it’s where [she] grew up”—with marketing practices. “My priority is to have traditional communication professionals become more effective marketers and vice versa. It’s about blurring the lines; two disciplines becoming one,” she says.

When coordinating marketing campaigns, Carone maintains a healthy line of communication. “The PR team sits at the table with the advertising team, along with the social media team,” she says, shunning “reactive campaigns” where PR gets called in after the campaign is developed. “At Xerox, the PR team is involved early in the process so that they have influence on marketing strategy.”

Recently, Carone oversaw a video designed to explain the “metamorphosis within Xerox,” used in sales meetings and other areas. The two-minute video was conceived when the company realized it needed “a creative asset to tell its story,” she says. “Communicators came to the table and said, ‘Here is what our stakeholders need to learn and understand.’ Our advertising team worked with them to refine that message and develop a storyboard. By the end, we’d reached a combination of earned media, owned media, and paid media that got the views and engagement we wanted.”

Xerox doesn’t conduct much traditional direct mail marketing, Carone says. Within the company, direct mail is more “the exception, not the rule.”

Carone identifies herself as an “active voice” speaking to the marketing community in Xerox’s various social spheres. In the digital space, however, the company sees social media as an opportunity to connect with customers, as well as current, past, and prospective employees. Social media enables Xerox to communicate its role as a provider of B2B services. Carone is not so concerned with garnering Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers as she is with the posted content being creative and informative.

Carone often speaks of the importance of being “communicative” and “creative”—but Darrell Minards, head of marketing communications at Xerox Europe, also adds “bold” to her marketing ethos. Minards first worked with Carone in 2010 to support her launch of the Ready for Real Business communications platform—which, according to Minards, included implementing a new global brand campaign and sponsorship platform.

“She challenged us to do the unexpected,” he says. “She wanted our clients to see us and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that from Xerox.’” Minards adds that Carone invested a great deal of time in communicating marketing strategy through a series of webinars to the European marketing teams, and gave them “a strategy and framework to our global and local marketing activities at a time when Xerox is going through significant change and helped us to convey the real story of what Xerox is about—a business breaking the mold from primarily selling technology to one that is equally serving as a business services organization.”

Under Carone, Xerox’s marketing strategies have retained some unconventional elements. “As a team, we have agreed to protect a certain dollar amount for experimentation,” she notes, “at such a pivotal time, we need to do some things that are unexpected, making people take a second look at Xerox.”

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