The X files

With Japanese companies eating into its Eastern Europe market, Xerox briefed Aspen to devise a branding and awareness campaign. Daney Parker reports on how the agency used data analysis to bridge language and cultural divides, boosting the com

In Eastern Europe in 1993, Xerox had a problem. It was losing its leading market position in the ten countries where it operated through a network of 200 dealers. This was due to growing competition from rival brands, including cheaper Japanese products, that were keen to exploit growing Eastern European markets.

Xerox realised it needed to sell its brand strengths in order to increase demand for its products. It also planned to build its presence by increasing its number of dealers and giving them a clear Xerox identity. Aspen, a business communications agency, was asked to develop a campaign to tackle this project. One that would be successful in all ten countries, overcoming problems of diverse languages, cultures and infrastructures.

Aspen believes it was picked for this project partly because of its experience as a business-to-business agency that was known for creating strategies based on data. Before coming up with concrete solutions, Aspen’s first step was to research the market.

In 1993, advertising media in most Eastern European countries was not at the same level as media in the West – hardly surprising considering that not many years before there was no advertising industry at all. For many marketing was still a novelty. Aspen analysed available market information to discover how Xerox could best communicate with its customers. Working with a Xerox team based at its marketing headquarters in Marlow, Aspen also identified key brand messages.

In the rest of the world, Xerox was known as a company that could provide solutions for creating documents. Aspen’s research highlighted the fact that people were buying machines for different reasons in Eastern Europe. For example, when choosing a printer in the West, a consumer would consider the quality of print and how easy the machine was to network and update. In an Eastern country, a customer’s aim was to get a printer, whether it could be networked and serviced were not issues that were much thought about. Evan Ivey, planning director at Aspen, sums up the consumer attitude in Eastern Europe at the time as being: “You can buy a Xerox, or you can buy a Canon and a car.”

As Xerox was more expensive, people had to be given reasons to pay more. Aspen concentrated on the core values of Xerox, which it identified as reliability, quality of product, after-sales service back-up, a wide network of suppliers and medium to long-term value for money.

The campaign devised used press and posters as well as TV in Moscow. The challenge was to come up with a campaign that would work across many cultures. Blana Foley, marketing communications manager at Xerox, explains some of the considerations: “We had to pick up elements of the advertising to suit individual countries. Everything had to be adapted to suit local media, which was unlike the UK media.”

Foley adds that although the media was different back in 1993, it has evolved rapidly, and witnessing it has been “like watching a speeded-up film”.

Obviously, advertising that is going to be translated into different languages will not work if it contains typically English puns or plays on words. Aspen designed ads that were illustrated with strong pictures expressing clear messages emphasised by simple copy lines. For example, one double-page press ad told businesses how to find their nearest Xerox dealer by showing a list of names and addresses. Underneath this it told them how to find competitors’ dealers by showing a pair of binoculars.

Another ad focused on Xerox’s reliability. This showed a skyscraper of paper standing behind a Xerox machine with the line “Only Xerox has to pass this simple test.”

The ads were backed by a lead-generation campaign. Aspen brought over 20 marketing managers from Eastern Europe to take them through the basics of advertising and marketing strategy. The intention was to underline what it is that makes Xerox good value, and the manager’s role in putting this across. They were provided with enough information and materials to create mailshots to go out to locally-sourced lists. The packs followed a standard direct marketing format, containing a leaflet, covering letter and incentives to try out Xerox products.

The marketing managers’ training also included advice about how to organise local door-to-door distributions, for example by employing students from nearby colleges. This may seem an unusual approach for an organisation such as Xerox, but as Ivey explains, the dealers in Eastern Europe were small businesses, operating separately. Another reason why it was important that these individual operators communicated one cohesive Xerox image.

Ivey recalls a success story that resulted from the direct marketing campaign, as told to him by one manager. “A mailing to 5,000 businesses, produced 3,000 replies. Some of these were simply saying ‘Thanks for the mailpack’, which just shows how unusual direct marketing was in Eastern Europe then.”

At the same time as launching the advertising and marketing campaign, Aspen and Xerox created and sent out 250 packs to new Xerox dealers. These aimed to provide the new dealers with an identity and help get them up and running.

Aspen visited cities in Eastern Europe, including Moscow, Prague and Warsaw, to find out how existing Xerox dealers and offices operated. In his visit to Moscow and Warsaw, Ivey found striking differences to UK operators. “The first dealer we visited in Moscow was situated in a flat 14 floors up. We also found dealers operating from tea shops. In Warsaw it was different again, there were more showrooms, but in one there was a machine actually being repaired in the middle of the shop.”

Aspen realised there was little point following a standard point-of-sale approach. Instead it came up with a modular solution made up of blocks of point-of-sale materials, including leaflet dispensers, stickers and pens, for dealers to choose the items that best suited their needs.

Aspen claims to have overseen the production of nine tonnes of promotional material, that were sent to the Eastern European dealers. All these items, from pens to posters, were produced by suppliers in the UK that Aspen had used before, so it could be confident of reliability.

The materials sent to each dealer filled crates, which Ivey describes as the size of “enormous coffins”. These crates contained posters, stands, signage, carrier bags … everything the dealer needed to brand and market itself. The carrier bags themselves were considered to be a hot product by one dealership – as Ivey discovered that it was actually selling them.

The success of the campaign, from advertising through to Xerox branding, was one factor that led to Xerox achieving an 80 per cent sales growth in almost every European country in 1994. There was little research carried out into how the campaign improved its image, so this sales growth is only an indication. Ivey points out that the increased sales were also due to economic growth in these countries, and an increase in the number of Xerox dealers.

Xerox’s Foley adds: “It worked better in some countries than others. Although we didn’t do a lot of post-analysis, it seemed to work best where countries used all the elements of the campaign. In some they only picked up bits of it. It is difficult to quantify the results in Russia, as the office in Moscow ran a national campaign and the dealers in the regions ran local ones. Sales did improve, and 1994 was a good year. The campaign must have been a factor.”

Foley believes that the branding of dealers was particularly successful. Since the initial exercise that began in 1993, all Xerox dealers (which now totals 400), have received new branding kits to reflect Xerox’s latest image. This is recognisable by its use of a big red “X” logo. “If you visit a small town, the Xerox dealers look good. The Xerox name is very well known in Russia and the campaign has definitely contributed to that.”

Foley believes today’s marketing campaigns in Eastern Europe must use different approaches from the ones that succeeded just a few years ago. This is to keep up with the rapidly evolving market.

“In 1995, we ran a campaign in Eastern Europe that was the same as the one run in Europe and America. It was adapted slightly in some countries, for example where in Western Europe we portrayed a famous Dutch painting, in Poland we used a famous Polish painting. Running one campaign like this would have been possible in 1993, but it would have been a lot harder.”

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