On reading this article I was left with the sense of being cheated – not in a really sinister way, more like drinking a coffee only to find it was decaff. I wonder when an organisation will have enough courage to try and step out from behind the screen of jargon and code that survives particularly well in the brand advertising space. From what I read and understand from my contacts, Xerox tripped and fell as a result of missing the tipping point and shifting to a service based proposition as a reaction rather than a leading risk. Competitors were beating them to the punch in their core printer sales business and Xerox struggled with over reliance on a once leading brand and failed to lead the market they created. They got muddled between selling to the channel and the end client/printers or services and all in all missed the turning tide of infrastructure investment retreating towards outsourced services. They quickly re-branded themselves ‘The Document Company’ and began efforts to claw back market share by diversifying into the BPO space. Like so many once great organisations they began to believe their own PR (M&S refusing to accept any other credit card than their own precipitated the beginning of a slump that they have arguably never fully arrested). Whether you are big or small you have to keep your eye beyond the horizon and make guesses on where landfall might be and TAKE RISKS – simply ploughing the same furrow you have always done just ‘because we are (were, actually!) the best’ is not a strategy worth the title.
This article seems to be papering over the cracks and describing how difficult it can be to explain a change in strategic direction for a big brand like Xerox.Perhaps if you told it like it was you may earn a little more respect than trying to fabricate a linear progression and wrap it all up with some TV spots. Try this;
We were brilliant back then, the leaders in everything we did and frankly we got complacent. We came down from the crow’s nest and got fat, dining in the captains cabin instead. When we hit the rocks we were repaired and refloated by the USS Chapter 11, which happened to be passing. Since then we have seen the error of our ways and chosen to part exchange our busted up ship for this shiny new one ‘ACS’. We put the name ‘Xerox’ on it because we (and our brand strategy consultants that have been with us for years helping us towards the rocks) thought it had real value. Xerox (ACS) – the document (and BPO) company (that sells printers)
Once you have missed a tipping point like Xerox and many others have done and will do again, you just have to try and recover if you are able to – never mind the brand strategy. Chapter 11 certainly helped Xerox recover and I suppose we will never know just how important this was for them. The thing is that they then bought ACS ‘off the shelf’ as the ultimate incarnation of what they tried (and failed) to do years before when diversifying and becoming ‘The Document Company’. The same shallow strapline spinning that got them into the hot water at the time seems to be alive and well in the big X today if this article is anything to go by.