Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Steve Pacheco, FedEx

Steve Pacheco
Director of Advertising

What was the key insight behind the “Relax, it’s FedEx.” advertising campaign? Can you point to any specific success metrics that it delivered? How did this theme carry through the organization? Is it safe to say retail locations were set-up and maintained to foster a stress-free environment for your business customers?

Organizationally, we do a lot of market research on what the key attributes of our brand should be in the mind of our customers and what they are looking for from a transportation and business services company. We continually monitor and research what the perception of our brand is vs. what we are trying to communicate to the marketplace.

The spirit of the Relax campaign came from the importance of reliability; a brand and service attribute for FedEx. The Relax line reinforces the reliability attribute and encourages the peace of mind that we want our customers to have when they do business with FedEx. The intent is to position the service in a way in which once customers give their shipments to us, they can relax and know that their package will get there when and how they need it to due to our exceptionally high reliability. We also set-up internal QDM metrics that helped us measure ourselves on that reliability attribute. This helps us deliver on that brand promise. We know that is equally, if not more important, than the promise itself.

FedEx was a highly acquisitional company in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. With these acquisitions came new complexities. As we began to try to integrate new companies into the FedEx portfolio (freight services, ground services, etc) delivering on the promise became more complicated. We had to integrate multiple account numbers, back-end systems, and sometimes sub-par operational processes under the same FedEx promise. These challenges sometimes made delivering on the Relax, it’s FedEx promise more difficult.

We have many different types of retail locations: some we own, some are through third parties, and then, of course Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) was a new addition to the retail portfolio in 2003. At that point we had to take on Kinko’s operational infrastructure and culture and stamp it with the FedEx brand. It has taken several years for FedEx Office to truly adopt the “relax” and “reliability” attributes into their culture. Prior to that it was mainly aspirational but also a compass for where the FedEx Office corporate culture needed to be.

In general, the Relax theme has been supported in the retail locations, most specifically from a customer service standpoint. The most recent re-design of our FedEx Office locations further drives this idea home by allowing us to be more customer-friendly and approachable in our retail footprint.

What led you to bow the “We understand.” campaign? How has it resonated so far with your customers and prospects?

The “We Understand” campaign started in January 2009. It was not by coincidence that this launch followed shortly after the crash of the stock market that October and in a time of great instability in the marketplace. We were trying to assure customers that despite immense uncertainty, FedEx would still deliver the same reliability. In addition, we wanted to let them know that we understood times were hard and we were doing everything we could to provide pricing deals and alternative services to our premium services. This proved successful when we saw the mode-shifting from FedEx Express to FedEx Ground, a service that can often get a customer package delivered within 1 day (depending on the ‘lanes’ or geographic routing).

“We Understand” has resonated well in the marketplace, in large part due to the enterprise-wide adoption of this concept. It is always a win if all marketing communications and customer touch-points support one general market messaging, in this case “We Understand”. If there is anything we have had to work hard on it is communicating to the customer “what” we understand (i.e. we understand you need: easy printing solutions, mobile solutions, service options, international solutions, small business solutions, etc.) It is an on-going challenge, especially as our customer needs continue to evolve. We must be doing something right, however, as our most recent TV commercials have tested as some of the best spots FedEx has ever produced.

Our campaign site also helps show all the things we understand.

Why is “Access” the theme of your thought-leadership program? How do you define Access? Why is Access important to FedEx and your customers? How do you measure the success of this initiative?

“Access” is actually more of a Corporate Communications initiative than it is a Marketing initiative. We are currently in the process of creating a fully integrated brand platform that all of these ideas and initiatives ladder up to – think “Beyond Petroleum” (BP), “The Human Network” (Cisco) or “I’m There” (State Farm).

The power of granting access is, in its essence, what FedEx does. We have a very unique position in the world economy in that we both help in the procurement of raw materials as well as the distribution of the finished products to the global customer. What our research has found is that as societies begin to connect through telecommunications, whether that means phone or internet, they naturally want to begin doing trade with those marketplaces they are connected to.

In reality, FedEx provides this “Access” to societies around the world and lets them become a player within the global economy…all they really need is to lay down a runway and we can take it from there (or deliver it to there, as the case may be). We feel strongly that by providing this access to commerce or global trade, the standard of living in these societies is improved through economic growth. Understanding that our ability to provide “Access” around the globe helps not just spawn economic growth, but also social well-being makes us feel good about our role in the world.

I just love this line… “You want your package today, but not at the expense of tomorrow.” Why is it important for FedEx to market a sustainability message?

First off, thanks for taking the time to be so familiar with our marketplace messaging. Maybe one thing we should begin to learn here is there are a lot of things to support and limited resources to do so (same with Google)! Ha.

Our sustainability (or corporate social responsibility) initiatives are another platform led out of our Corporate Communications team. However, we have been cooperative with them is taking this message to the marketplace through corporate-based advertising. As a major global consumer of energy, “we understand” it is important to always be thinking about the sustainability of our planet and our impact on the environment.

The nature of our business is very energy intensive and FedEx is actively in the process of lowering our carbon footprint and environmental impact. We have done this through testing hybrid technologies in our delivery vehicles and, in August 2005, FedEx Express activated California’s then-largest corporate solar power installation at its Oakland Hub. I think these sustainability messages also help ladder-up to the “We Understand” platform in that we clearly understand the importance of thinking about the environment and finding more effective and efficient ways to protect it.

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