Last night Jon Stewart referred to Kinko’s on The Daily Show, even though there’s been no such thing as Kinko’s for several years now.
Customer (and comedian) references to Kinko’s only reaffirm every Chief Marketing Officer’s secret conviction: customers just don’t understand marketing.
Sure, FedEx Office branches must now post window signs that say “Kinko’s Inside”, but as we all know from our insistence that government should run more like business, corporate decisions are never wrong, so elimination of the Kinko’s brand was in fact a touch of marketing genius.
Okay, that’s my quota of sarcasm for the day.
Brands are built – and destroyed – through customer experience. I’m sure FedEx responded to what it believed “Kinko’s” had come to represent by 2006. After all, it’s not the ubiquity of the brand name that matters – it’s what the name means to people. I suspect that by 2006, Kinko’s represented a narrow range of products (copies) and indifferent customer service.
Yet, from 1970 until 1999, the Kinko’s brand represented an ever-growing range of products and services, creative and helpful coworkers, and round-the-clock availability.
In E Pluribus Kinko’s, I sympathize with FedEx’s plight, since I believe it was sold damaged goods by the investment firm that took control of Kinko’s in the late 1990s and systematically dismantled the culture. By the time FedEx bought it, the Kinko’s brand was in decline.
But I’m not sure why FedEx chose to change the name rather than rehabilitate the brand. It’s as if the leadership lost sight of what made their own brand great (outstanding customer service) and thought the brand name itself could mask the inadequacies of an ill-considered acquisition.
It’s not too late. FedEx could still rehabilitate the brand. The old Kinko’s culture, based on partnership, profit-sharing, and pot-stirring, cannot be precisely replicated in a public company, but there are always ways to kindle the fire in coworkers’ eyes, and there are always new technologies that can be rented to people otherwise unable to afford them. It just takes the resolve to do something great.
C’mon Fred Smith – be a revolutionary one more time! Admit the mistake, re-launch Kinko’s, and lead a once-great company to its destiny.