Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Every December since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute selects a "color of the year" to reflect the global mood. It started as a creative way to inject excitement around the organization's color-matching system but has grown beyond the printing industry into a larger marketing opportunity. Nail polish brands and home paint companies now elect their own hues, and this year, Xerox is getting in on the action by nominating "clear."
The company, best known for its photocopy hardware, aims to reenergize its positioning around creativity and innovation with a campaign that encourages debate around whether clear is a color. A new two-minute video features color authorities from Xerox and Christie's, citing how artists like Leonardo Da Vinci have used clear glaze to add dimension and texture to their masterpieces.
The spot, dedicated landing page and social media effort represent a broader shift in Xerox's marketing focus from hardware to output, Chief Communications and Brand Officer Anne Marie Squeo told Marketing Dive.
"It's not about showing off that we can print clear, it's about sharing why we would print clear," she said. "It's really about creating artistic effect."
From hardware to output
#Clear2020 is phase two of a larger marketing series around color. The series, according to Squeo, brings to life Xerox's hardware capabilities through rich storytelling that taps into people's emotional connection to color.
"We're not going to just share videos of printers spitting out paper because that's not why anyone drops half a million dollars on a big production press," she said. "They do it for the output. They do it for, dare I say it, the color and the lines and the clarity and all the things that make your eyes pop."
Brainstorming began early in the summer after Squeo read a New Yorker article about a new shade of white. The publication's willingness to give that kind of real estate to another white when there are already thousands, Squeo said, sparked an "aha moment" suggesting that debate around color is a subject that resonates with consumers.
Phase one of the color series kicked off in August around whether a tennis ball is green or yellow (Xerox says it's optic yellow). Tying the effort to the U.S. Open, Xerox launched its broader color conversation and exceeded expectations for engagement and click-through rate, Squeo said, without providing specific results. Organic media attention and a poll — which raked in more than 27,000 responses — spurred additional brand buzz and helped to wedge Xerox back into consumers' minds.
By encouraging debate around color and linking the series' installments to real-world events, Xerox aims to remind people of its legacy in shaping the workplace in the 1950s and '60s through providing office hardware while also modernizing the brand's image.
"It's not about showing off that we can print clear, it's about sharing why we would print clear. It's really about creating artistic effect."
Anne Marie Squeo
Chief Communications and Brand Officer, Xerox
"That comes to life in stories. People don't have time for traditional advertising coming at them with a sales pitch constantly," Squeo said. "What we're always trying to build is connection and engagement, and that's what spurs action."
Phase three is scheduled to debut in early December, followed by two installments in 2020.
Highlighting the 'quiet geniuses'
Xerox developed #Clear2020 in-house, with color experts and former journalists creating the video that's shared across the company's owned social channels. Squeo said shorter clips will not appear as ads on YouTube due to brand safety concerns.
"There's a kinetic energy when you have journalists doing what they do best, which is tell stories. We were able to build on that by plugging into our in-house folks," she said.
A significant focus of the campaign is internal, as Xerox works to highlight its employees as brand ambassadors — an emerging trend in the marketing space. Squeo's team profiled the employees who star in the #Clear2020 video and shared the content on Xerox's internal homepage to help people learn about their colleagues, potentially driving shares and extending the campaign's reach.
"Helping to turn our longtime Xerox experts into part of this campaign series has been one of the most satisfying aspects of it," Squeo said. "We have all these quiet geniuses in their own right now playing a very public role in our marketing."