Eponym. Feel free to Google it. Though not an everyday term, it is the ultimate acknowledgement of cultural acceptance. Eponyms like FedEx, Kleenex, Jacuzzi, Band-Aid, Scotch Tape and Chapstick all continue to lead their respective categories. But others like Formica, Bubble Wrap, Plexiglas, Popsicle, Realtor, Windbreaker, Novocain, Dumpster, Stetson and even Ping Pong have long lost their original corporate association and distinctiveness as a brand.
And then there’s Xerox. The Google of its day, Xerox is among the few eponyms that is both noun and verb, having pioneered photocopying and related printing activities. This famous legacy presents an enormous challenge, one that Chief Marketing Officer Toni Clayton-Hine tackled in a story-centric campaign called “Project: Set the Page Free.” As you learn in our interview below, Clayton-Hine enlisted 14 noteworthy authors to tell stories, in writing, at events and on videos—stories that ultimately helped inspire a broader perspective on what it means to “Xerox something” in 2018.
What is Xerox in the context of the modern workplace, and what is the new campaign you’re using to promote that?
The context is this idea of helping people communicate and work at that intersection of physical and digital. The new campaign is called “Project: Set the Page Free” and it gave us this incredible opportunity to frame how Xerox solves these problems today. The campaign’s strength came from leveraging the creative work of 14 really famous, magnificent authors, writers, and contributors. When we think about what a page is today, it’s both the physical and the digital form. Whether or not you photocopy something today is much less important to me than if you are moving information from one place to another. I want to show how we can contribute and help you communicate better and be more productive.
What do we see from the authors?
We literally asked them, with no boundaries, to contribute their perspectives on the modern workplace. So, Lee Child, Aimee Mann, Jonathan Coulter, Roxanne Gay and more were all able to contribute some form of writing—a song, an essay, fiction—in their own style. We get to see these different elements of what they consider work and what we quickly see is that work is definitely not a place anymore. All of these guys come together, contributing their chapters. The 92nd St. Y helps bring in the authors to tell their stories and then Sloane Crosley, who is a New York Times best selling essayist, actually creates the connective tissue between these works to help formulate a book. From there, we could tell the story of how this interesting project came together and happened, and we could leverage the celebrity of the authors and organizations involved. All of that helped market our marketing and amplified the message. We got a lot of PR amplification simply because it was, as we had a hoped, an interesting story.
This was a big campaign. How did you have the courage to push for such a bold strategy, especially when the results and efficacy would be tough to measure?
We really did take a moon shot to be able to make this work. I was a new CMO at Xerox. It’s a company that wants to reshape how you think about us, which means we had to take a risk. We have an incredibly supportive CEO who understood that we need to be able to tell this story about what we stand for today in a unique and compelling way. There’s a leap of faith but sometimes you have to go for it because the potential will be great.
Can you talk a bit about the storytelling in the campaign?
I’m a big believer in storytelling and the fact that we have to always show the outcome, not the input. Everyone’s very familiar with Xerox in terms of what it does. But I want to focus the story on what the outcome will be once you have had that [new] experience. And I don’t think that’s unique to Xerox, I think that’s something every brand has to do. Finding the story and then being able to use your technology, your product or your service to help show how that comes to life is a pretty natural thing for me. What you’re starting to look through is not the story – but which of the stories – and what’s the angle that’s going to be the most compelling to that audience?
Let’s talk about measurement. When you report back on this campaign, how do explain its effectiveness?
One of the decisions we made was to make it 100% digital. We wanted to create some sort of digital signature with every asset that we created. We wanted to take people on a journey that we could extend far beyond the book. We wanted to create assets that we could drip out. First, we started with a teaser: This is coming. Then we talked about the authors. Then we drove people to the website so they could sign-up for updates. Now that we’ve launched the book we are using those contacts to say, “come back.” We wanted to make sure we had this digital footprint that we could ultimately use for demand generation. Then, with the data that we collect across the journey, we can determine: Who is engaging? What types of businesses are they? What departments are they in? Why are they engaging? Where are they going? That will help us inform the content: What’s resonating? Where can we amplify? Where do things like social media complement the traditional search and digital platforms?
How did you extend your reach?
For us, it was about understanding and being dogged about who our target market really is. Xerox is not a consumer brand, it’s a b-to-b brand. You generally are looking at a larger or more technologically sophisticated company. The mom and pop shop is probably not our target audience. There’s better, more cost-effective lower feature products for them. That helps us define who really is that target audience. As you go in that b-tob environment you break those into buyers and users and you start to realize: I don’t need to reach millions and millions of people. We just need to reach the right audience in a repetitive fashion.
Do you have a major “do” and a major “don’t” for other CMOs?
One “do” would be: Take the big idea and socialize it around your company. Take time to discuss the broad implications with the CEO. What does it do for sales? How do the products get shown? How does HR benefit from it? For me, that really helped sell something that was a bit intangible for them. My “don’t” would be: Don’t lock everything down. Don’t try to control so much of the process that it’s not true, and that it doesn’t look authentic. There were points in there where we had to make decisions on whether we drove to SetThePageFree.com or whether we drove to Xerox and how much we were in the forefront or in the background. Don’t get so focused on putting your products in the foreground that you lose the authenticity of the program.