Brand karma: The Rise and Fall of a Cult Brand Xerox Corporation (The biggest Re-brand ever) (Part-1)

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Can you imagine a world where you need to live with no electronic gadgets such as Mobile phone or a computer, at least not with a photocopy machine? Completely blank right! Think about it, how many times a photocopy machine helped you to copy tons of papers so you can take back your stuff to your place and read it at your convince. If you can’t relate exactly what Photocopy machine is? Then, let’s name it as Xerox machine!!!

Now you got some idea! Yes, Xerox a brand that made itself a Cult brand [A person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society] for copy machines. A brand with 113 years of history was not only a company that manufactures a photocopy machine it’s much more. This company is the one of the most innovative, idealistic & a company with many revolutionary products. This brand had an opportunity of changing the world if they figured out that what they are capable of. This company invented and created origins to few of the most important technological advancements & these products became a part of our daily life.  Lets us find out the reason for rising and fall of the most important and iconic company XEROX Corporation.

Xerox Corporation

The story of Xerox under a nutshell:

Xerox Company founded in 1906 in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, as the Haloid Photographic Company, which originally manufactured photographic paper and equipment and later it became a company Rank Xerox and finally, in at 1961, it changed its name to Xerox Corporation.  In the meanwhile of 50 years, they made so many advancements in paper and documentation industry. Here are few of the top innovations they worked during that period.

Xerox was founded in 1906 as The Haloid Photographic Company. It originally manufactured photographic paper and equipment
Credits: Xerox
  1. In 1938 Chester Carlson, a physicist working independently invented a process for printing images using an electrically charged photoconductor-coated metal plate and dry powder “toner”. However, it would take more than 20 years of refinement before the first automated machine to make copies got commercialized, using a document feeder, scanning light, and a rotating drum.

Joseph C. Wilson, credited as the “founder of Xerox”, took over Haloid [Now called as Xerox Corporation] from his father. He saw the promise of Carlson’s invention and, in 1946, signed an agreement to develop it as a commercial product. Wilson remained as President/CEO of Xerox until 1967 and served as Chairman until his death in 1971.

Xerox 914, Credits: Xerox
  1. The Xerox 914: We can compare the Xerox time period [before & after] with this one product; at 1959 Xerox Corporation got the prominence after releasing this product. “A most successful product of all time”, a product that completely changed the company and human working culture. The 914 was the first photocopy machine developed by Carlson and John H. Dessauer. This product alone bought business around $60 million at 1961 and brought revenue of $ 500 Million by 1965. It became one of the wealthiest company during its time.

The story behind the name Xerox Corporation:

Looking for a term to differentiate its new system, Haloid coined the term Xerography from two Greek roots meaning “dry writing”. Haloid subsequently changed its name to Haloid Xerox in 1958 and then Xerox Corporation in 1961.

The growth of Xerox Corporation around the world:

The company saw a real growth at 1960’s. In 1961, the company changed its name to Xerox Corporation & Xerox common stock (XRX) listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961 and on the Chicago Stock Exchange in 1990. In 1963 Xerox introduced the Xerox 813, the first desktop plain-paper copier, realizing Carlson’s vision of a copier that could fit on anyone’s office desk. Ten years later in 1973, a basic analog, color copier based on the 914 was introduced. Xerox’s first charge into duplicating, as distinct from copying, much faster but not as fast as current offset printer but they were most reliable machines that time. Archie McCardell became president of the company in 1971 & during his tenure,

Xerox introduced the Xerox 6500, its first color copier. The company later improved their quality design and realignment of its product line. Attempting to expand beyond copiers, in 1981 Xerox introduced a line of electronic memory typewriters, the Memory writer, which gained 20% market share, mostly at the cost of IBM under the leadership of David T. Kearns. In 1994 the company introduced a corporate signature, The Document Company”, above its main logo and introduced a red digital X. The digital X symbolized the transition of documents between the paper and digital worlds.

Palo Alto Research Center [PARC]:

PARC a Xerox Company

Can you believe! Few of the most advanced and revolutionary products in the world came from one place and i.e. Palo Alto research center, in 1970, under company president C. Peter McColough, Xerox corporation opened this research center with an aim of inventing new technological origins and few of most successful innovation were,

  • Graphical User Interface [A interface that allowed user to interact with electronic devices instead of text-based interference],
  • Laser printer [Now became our household printer] &
  • Ethernet [pre-version of the present Internet & now its called as LAN].

In 1973 Xerox PARC created a small minicomputer, this was truly the first personalized computer with LAN, Ethernet, User interface and first ever computer with copy and paste options, a QWERTY type keyboard called Xerox ALTO. This was really ahead of its time. But, it never commercially sold to the public. In 1981, Xerox star with some more features with a mouse and proper keyboard came to the market but they failed to sell because of their high price $16,000 per unit.

The Alto personal computer debuted 1973 and featured the world’s first WYSIWYG—”what you see is what you get” Credits: PARC

In 1979, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, made a deal with Xerox’s venture capital division, he would let them invest $1 million in an exchange of Inside developments of Xerox research center. Steve Jobs saw the commercial potential of the WIMP [Windows, Icon, and Menu & Pointing Device] and he redirected these technologies in his Apple Lisa. Jobs was invited to PARC to discuss with researchers to complete and carry out their ideas. Jobs quote saying this They just had no idea what they had”

Researchers in PARC discussing

Later in 1984, Apple bought rights for Graphic User Interface [GUI] and a mouse from Xerox Corporation for Apple Macintosh and it was the first personal computer with most simple usage format of use. Lot of 80’s media & apple haters claims that Steve jobs stole valuable information from Xerox Research center and used it for their company. To that news, Steve Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple quoted:

 Steve Jobs made the case to Xerox PARC execs directly that they had the great technology but that Apple knew how to make it affordable enough to change the world. This was very open. In the end, Xerox got a large block of Apple stock for sharing the technology. That’s not stealing outright.

In 2002, PARC was spun off into an independent wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox.

In the history of humankind, no company survived without making some mistakes. The early you make mistakes the early to can rectify if you fail to analyze then stakes will be huge & even a company with most revolutionary products have no exemptions, there were few miscalculations and wrong assumption about their industry made them face a huge amount of loss, both in money and fame.

Let’s find out the reason for the downfall and let’s see how they used their re-branding strategy

to stay in the market, in next part. In next part, you will get to know why Steve jobs said Xerox had potential to change the world and they failed, some interesting facts and stories of Xerox that you might not come across.

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Sai Nikhil Dintakurthi

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