Fuji Xerox: ...and they said it wouldn't last

March 18, 2008

Common wisdom has it that joint ventures can’t last.  Typically, they serve a purpose of business extension or expansion for a time – and, once fully established, are spun off or bought out by one of the partners. Fuji Xerox is an exception to this principle. The success of this 45-year-old company (75% owned by Fuji Film; 25% by Xerox Corporation) stands both as a testament to the staying power of a successful joint venture and as a warning to the staying power of a successful joint venture.

By many measures, Fuji Xerox is a true success story. Formed in 1962 to market Xerox products in Japan and then throughout Asia-Pacific, annual revenues now approach $10 Billion.  (Xerox Corporation, for comparison, is a $17 Billion company.) At its heart, this is a distribution deal that expanded well beyond its original parameters – into new markets and new capabilities. The company contributes $125 million to the Xerox bottom line. It is the market leader in its industry in Japan and other markets.

So what’s the problem? In a word: confusion. The global market has obviously evolved drastically since the inception of this venture. Geographic boundaries around a brand and its customers are today more indiscernible than ever. Meanwhile, Fuji Xerox has always used a co-opted version of the Xerox identity. The JV has even used the Xerox tagline “The Document Company” as part of its own identity since the 1990’s. (Xerox Corporation abandoned this tagline 3 or 4 years ago.) For an increasingly global market of partners and customers, this has to be a source of confusion for Xerox sales teams, support teams, marketers and distribution partners. And in the next few weeks, we will see this confusion perpetuate as Fuji Xerox re-brands itself to mimic the Xerox corporate identity change announced earlier this year.

Fuji Xerox: The Document Company

Confusion likely exists for Fuji, too, though to a lesser extent. For Fuji, subservience to the Xerox brand - particularly as the markets for film and printing converge - is a communications and positioning challenge. Plus Xerox today is not nearly as strong a brand as it was earlier in this partnership; these negative perceptions can be problematic for Fuji.

The re-branding may have been an opportunity for Fuji Xerox to clarify itself in the global market with respect to its corporate parents. Rather than repeat a branding mistake made nearly a half-century ago, Fuji Xerox could have migrated to a brand strategy that better accounts for the roles and responsibilities each partner. If Xerox is truly “a customer-centric company built on a continuing history of innovative ideas,” as a recent press release states, shouldn’t they think about the perceptions of customers and partners as these audiences are faced with the clumsy half-sister of the Xerox brand?

Fuji Xerox

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