Small Business Lessons from the FedEx Brand

On the FedEx company website, Monica Skipper, the FedEx brand strategy team lead since 2005, offers some simple words of advice.  In “The Essence of Branding,” Skipper says that when it comes down to the core of your brand, you must know who you are, be who you are, and say who you are.

And, really, that hits the nail on the head.  But, of course, there’s so much more churning below that surface.  Today, I’d like to take a deeper look into the FedEx brand to find out what makes this company really resonate with clients.  Along the way, I’m going to share bits and pieces of the FedEx content strategy that you can use for your business as well.

The “FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor” Debacle

If you’re subjected to email forwards and/or a religious reader of Mashable, you probably saw this video last December, titled “FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor.”  The video depicts one of the company’s deliverymen walking up to a gate, and lobbing the box (clearly a monitor) over the fence.

The video went viral and even caught the eye of major news outlets.  Instead of avoiding the situation, FedEx Senior Vice President of US Operations, Matthew Thornton III, responded with this video and blog post in which he acknowledges what happened, reassures customers that this is not typical behavior, and informs customers what has been/will be done as the company moves forward.

Social media blogger Mack Collier did a study on the situation, and found that of the 182 comments on Thornton’s video, 57% were positive, 25% were neutral, and only 18% were negative.  By responding to the problem, FedEx was able to implement a content strategy that isn’t afraid of getting messy.

While many corporations would have tried to sweep this issue under the rug, FedEx embraced it as an opportunity to share their company’s values and build their brand reputation.  This is a classic example of how brands can use nasty situations to bump those B2B conversion rates.  For FedEx, the conversion bump might not be huge, but for small businesses, this is the kind of thing that can go viral in a great way!

To read more about how companies are handling angry customers in positive ways (and to learn how you can, too) see fellow CEM blogger Renée’s post here.  Your company can implement these strategies just as effectively.

FedEx Paid $900 Million for Something They Already Owned

Go back to 2008 with me…  FedEx has acquired Kinko’s (in 2004), the national copy center chain.  However, despite the fact that Kinko’s had been a decent business, sales were dropping and the financial forecast continued to look bleak.

So, what does FedEx do?  The corporation decides to make an $891 million noncash charge to retire the Kinko’s brand permanently and re-brand the stores as FedEx Office.  FedEx recognized the value of a business like Kinko’s that focuses on getting things done for small businesses, but the corporation wanted to have their own name behind the business.

Now, in 2012, FedEx Office continues to be a successful brand, driving B2B conversion rates by providing services that are useful, expedient, and friendly.  FedEx Office falls right into step with the FedEx Corporation brand, guaranteeing customers “The World on Time.”

FedEx Uses a Content Strategy Effectively

Many corporations in 2012 have developed a content strategy in some capacity.  However, few corporations are using strategies in truly effective ways.  While we’re on the subject of FedEx Office, it’s worth mentioning an example of how the brand is reaching out and creating brand advocates with its content strategy.

On March 10, 2009, FedEx offered free resume printing to help customers who were unemployed and struggling through the recession.  The event helped generate positive press for FedEx, built brand awareness, and, of course, helped others!  Where did the idea come from?  Its source is in the third comment left in this FedEx blog post.

Now, that’s impressive: a content strategy that actually delivers very real and tangible results!  And, of course, many of the customers that came into FedEx Office on March 10 were first-timers that later became repeat customers.  When you respond to the people that engage with your content, you can see your B2B conversion rate jump up as well!

Your Business

Make sure you take away these three lessons from FedEx for your brand.

·     Always, always, always listen to your customers and respond, even if it’s an embarrassing issue.  This can turn into a great brand experience.

·     Don’t be afraid to lose some money in order to make drastic improvements to your brand.

·     Pay attention to customers who engage in your content strategy.  They just might have your next big idea.

What lessons from FedEx do you find most valuable?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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