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Just because you can, does it mean you should?

Fedex For years we had Kinkos. They established a very strong brand and dominated their category. 

At the same time, we had FedEx. They were so dominant in their category that their name became our default verb for sending an overnight package. We don't overnight something, we FedEx it. Even when we're not using FedEx. (I call this the Kleenex phenom and wiikipedia calls it a genericized trademark).

Then, in 2004 FedEx forked over $2.4 billion dollars and bought Kinkos. They quickly (relatively speaking) shifted the Kinkos' name to FedEx Kinko's and we got used to it.

When you walk into a Kinkos (or a FedEx Kinko's) the storefront is 95 percent Kinkos and 5 percent FedEx. But...FedEx is the parent company so you can see why they wanted to link the two names. After all, it was a calculated effort to compete with the UPS stores, which are 95 percent UPS shipping and 5 percent copying, etc.

So....in June, FedEx announces they are going to re-name the Kinkos = FedEx Kinkos.  The new name?  FedEx Office.

Hmm.

What do you think? Should they have left it Kinkos? FedEx Kinko's? Or do you think FedEx Office was the way to go?

It's hard to deny that both FedEx and Kinkos had powerful brands long before they were blended together. Does the re-naming solidify them into one brand? Do they give away part of the equity each company had built separately?

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Comments

Great questions, Drew. I love these marketing type of questions! I just finished reading "Mavericks at Marketing" and "Good to Great." These questions reminded me of some things that apply in this case.

I believe as long as the underlying thing that makes the company successful is solid, the brand change should not make a difference. I suspect, however, that they are changing the brand because they have not had the success they expected and they are trying to use the "FedEx" foundation to draw back the customers they lost. If I were the CEO, I would recommend finding out why the customers were lost, and improving on that, first. A better announcement would be "we know we've disappointed you, but give us another chance to regain your Kinkos-like loyalty," rather than "Look, we're putting the old stuff away and remaking ourselves!" Customers are smart, they understand. Sort of like, "New and Improved." That just tells me what I had before was bad. So, why should I buy from you again!

I have to agree with Becci. I would not make this large of a brand shift since they can do many other things to increase brand awareness while maintaining the same brand. But, not having followed this very closely, they may have already made these efforts. Plus, I have to assume they did their homework and researched the effects of changing their brand. It will be interesting to see what the changes bring. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Drew.

I enjoyed this post, Drew, because the branding aspect of acquisitions and mergers has always interested me. This is one man's opinion, but I think the FedEx brand is ten times more powerful (and timeless) than Kinko's ever was, and it should take totally over and turn into FedEx office.

The FedEx brand = business and reliability. The Kinko's brand = a dreary place to make copies. FedEx wins hands down!

Drew:

I think comparing FedEx Kinkos to the UPS store is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Mailboxes Etc. (a mailing store) became The UPS Store (a mailing store). When Kinkos (a copy center) became FedEx Kinkos, it became a place where you went when it absolutely, positively had to be screwed up.

The style and standards of Kinkos and FedEx didn't mesh at all so there was little hope of success. That happens anytime merging companies don't share a common culture, standards or brand standards.

I think there are plenty of other copy shops that have out-Kinko'd Kinkos, so the best bet, in my opinion, is to blow the thing up and start from scratch, with a FedEx mindset, and see if you can reinvent the copy shop with FedEx standards.

Mark

Nathan is certainly on point.

This will strengthen the FedEx brand and open Kinko's to new customers. I imagine this was their transition plan all along, which explains the awkward FedEx Kinko's name.

The only downside is that Kinko's rolls off the tongue a heck of a lot easier than FedEx Office does.

Becci,

I'm not sure what their motivation is in making the shift. But if it is truly to mask a service issue, then they're in real trouble.

If the same employees, equipment and training stay in place, a new name isn't going to change the customer's experience.

You're right -- a better course of action would be to do some secret shopping, customer surveys and figure out what the problem is.

Marketing/branding cannot fix a bad product, bad customer service or a bad reputation. But it is often the solution applied to those problems because it is easier and less ego damaging then discovering the truth.

Drew

Pete,

FedEx isn't sharing why they are making the change, beyond the statement that they believe this name is more fitting for the functionality of the store.

They want to be your office away from the office -- whether you need to access a computer, get online, print something from a jump drive, make copies or ship something.

It would be interesting to know if they used only their own perception that the FedEx brand was better suited for this or if they did outside research.

I don't think office away from the office when I think FedEx, I think shipping.

But perhaps time and a serious marketing effort over time will change that.

Drew

Nathan,

Like you, I find the subject fascinating.

So for you, FedEx = business and not shipping?

Let's fast forward 6 months from now. If they don't make any structural/service changes at FedEx Office (in other words, it was the same dreary place as when it was Kinkos) will that damage your perception of the brand?

As you have probably experienced, Kinkos is not known for great service or accuracy. Again, if that doesn't change -- how will that impact the FedEx brand, do you think?

Actually, that's what I find most interesting. The name evolution is intriguing but what will be even more telling is to watch how/if FedEx does anything to change the customer experience at Kinkos.

Drew

Mark,

If they don't change anything about the customer experience at Kinkos, what impact do you think this will have on the FedEx brand?

I'm curious -- who do you think out Kinko's Kinkos?

Drew

Ryan,

I suspect it was their plan all along as well.

But, as several people have suggested -- if they don't change the customer experience, the FedEx name alone won't change our perception of the place.

I wonder if this is one of those cases where people will call it Kinkos for many years, even though we know it's now FedEx Office?

If it looks like Kinkos, and behaves like Kinkos -- why would we call it something different?

Drew

Drew,

Thanks for the response! I appreciate it!

We "fed ex" documents and packages, but we don't "kinko" anything. For what that is worth.

Most FedEx/Kinko locations have, I believe, free wifi, PC kiosks for rent, design services for graphics and publishing, binding, etc. So "FedEx Office" is a more descriptive brand name, the type you would want if you are building a new brand or if your old name has baggage or is blase.

I think that this change is probably warranted. However a lot of brand changes can't be justified by anything other than someone having to show that they are doing something to keep the job and earn a salary - (I'm making changes! I'm leading this overhaul! I'm taking risks!!!) usually someone who should but doesn't appreciate the true value of a brand.

Kenneth,

This discussion has been a good reminder that the brand lives in the mind of the consumer. It's been interesting to hear how different people respond to the brand names and their experiences with both entities.

Hopefully, if done well, the entire organization understands the power and reason behind the re-branding long before the public even knows it is happening.

Drew

I foresee some confusion eventually
Ie you are expecting a fedex delivery by a courier and lets say the courier was rude to you
so want to make a compliment and the next day
you see a sign that fedex office
)office -guess thats where that rude courier came from
you go it what no courier are based here
then why does the sign outside say Fedex OFFICE?
if you are not the office for the couriers?

Mark,

Hmm, I hadn't even thought about that. But I'll bet you're right. Which will make working at Kinkos even less attractive than it is today!

Drew

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