The Death of the Photocopier.


How Xerox came out the other side?

Brand Recognition

Few brands achieved what Kleenex did for the tissue paper, what Polaroid did for instant photography or what Xerox did for the photocopier.

These brands cornered and dominated their respective markets so thoroughly that their brands and brand name, became synonymous with the product itself.

Other than your grandma, when was the last time someone said, “Pass me a facial tissue,” as opposed to pass me a “Kleenex.” I’m sure even today you have a co-worker who still says “I’m gonna Xerox a copy of the contract and have a courier send it over.”

This notoriety notwithstanding, Polaroid went the way of the Dodo first in 2001, and then again in 2008. Seems even a strong brand identity was not enough to stave off the steady drum of technological advancement.

For Kleenex, the future doesn’t look much brighter if you believe studies showing all the things Millennials are killing. For now it’s napkins that are being ousted, how much further behind is the Kleenex?

Death of the photocopier

So, taking into account changing buying habits of the largest demographic in the U.S. labour force, technological advancements and process improvements within organizations, how is Xerox, which if we believe our own engrained brand association, still operating in a market that has been going more and more paperless?

If Guttenberg’s printing press was the most revolutionary invention of all time, then a footnote to that statement must include the photocopier machine. You’d be hard-pressed to find a successful business operating in the 90s or early 2000s without one. This machine enabled the quick duplication of documents that allowed a collaboration that was much more arduous in the past.

Putting aside the current challenges plaguing the company, a historian could look back at Xerox’s story and assume that as businesses pivoted from analog document storage towards a digitized document management system, Xerox would be hard pressed to continue operation with the same business model. And as a business analyst would confirm, they’d have been right!

So how did Xerox do it?

Without going into the technical aspects and delving deep into the vision and leadership of the succession of men and women who helmed this corporation, we can safely presume that they all saw the writing on the wall well before the time came to pivot. Sensing market trends, and having their finger on the pulse of technological improvements in tangent industries allowed Xerox to develop a suite of services and products that grew with the market and swam with the tide of Change, as opposed to against it.

So, while Polaroid decided that:

“This digital photography thing….it’s just a fad, and when people realize, we’ll be here to offer printable, real time pictures of their friends and family.”

Xerox, and those who grow with the Changing circumstances in which they live say:

“We’re doing great today, but what are the new trends that could influence our market share and how can we leverage these Changes to increase our User experience and brand engagement?”

You don’t tell the future by looking at the past

Reading this article, it’s easy to understand that the successes of our past do not guarantee our success in the future. Great Leaders don’t rest on their laurels, and constantly look to innovate to better serve the needs of the market.

But how do you ensure that the team you have built will follow down this new path?

What steps do you take foster innovation and creativity in already well-established markets?

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