Absolutely, Positively Delivering a New FedEx
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Absolutely, Positively Delivering a New FedEx

In January 2000, FedEx Corporation launched a sweeping rebranding initiative and new go-to-market strategy.

Paul Holmes

In January 2000, FedEx Corporation launched a sweeping rebranding initiative and new go-to-market strategy. Faced with intensifying competition from UPS and customer demand for a “one-stop” transportation provider, FedEx decided it was time to extend the FedEx brand across all of its operating units, a portfolio of transportation companies—including the legendary FedEx Express—that operated separately under distinct brands.
Although the company’s express and ground businesses would continue to operate independently, they now would compete collectively under the FedEx brand, allowing FedEx to cross-sell its full portfolio of services more effectively and grow its market share in all areas of its business. The initiative received substantial media and analyst attention, but FedEx faced skeptics.
Critics predicted a diluted FedEx brand, while media and analysts derided the independent operating model, questioning the long-term viability of maintaining separate express and ground operating companies. Employees continued to function in silos and were unclear about the role they could play in realizing the new FedEx vision.
Could FedEx build on its roots as an express delivery company and evolve into the world’s premier, full-service transportation powerhouse? FedEx Communications, with Ketchum, embarked on a strategic workplace-to-marketplace campaign to validate the new FedEx business and branding model and extend the success of FedEx Express across the corporation’s entire broad portfolio—changing behaviors and attitudes surrounding FedEx and making believers out of skeptics.
Communications conducted and analyzed quantitative and qualitative internal and third party-research to identify misperceptions, image gaps, challenges and opportunities following the rebranding and realignment of the FedEx operating companies. The team benchmarked the research findings against the six key drivers of corporate reputation (as defined by reputation expert Harris Interactive) as a standard measure to create and continually refine communications objectives and strategies.
Other research included:
· Analyst Perception Analysis: Review of analyst reports issued in January 2000 indicated business model skepticism among analysts, demonstrating a need to communicate successes and substantive proof points in the financial press and in annual analyst meetings. The team regularly benchmarked progress against analyst coverage and commentary.
· Share of Voice Analysis: Analysis of media coverage from January 2000 through December 2001 demonstrated generally ineffective or negative reporting of new FedEx messages, underscoring the need for more aggressive, targeted media relations.
· Harris Interactive Reputation Survey: Findings from the annual Harris online survey of more than 20,000 respondents from the general population measured corporate-reputation perceptions of FedEx based on six core reputation drivers against competitors and peers. The 2000 survey findings detailed focus areas for FedEx communications efforts; the team benchmarked year-over-year results, directing communications efforts to improve standings in each core area.
· Delahaye Medialink Media Reputation Index (MRI) Analysis: Using the Harris Interactive reputation drivers, third-party analysis of influential media identified FedEx’s reputation strengths and weaknesses against competitors and peers. The team leveraged findings, also benchmarked year-over-year, to determine focus areas among these influencers and improve overall corporate-reputation perception and standings in the annual Harris survey.
The team developed and continually recalibrated an aggressive, long-term campaign to increase awareness of and stimulate support for the new FedEx business vision and brand evolution, using the six drivers of corporate reputation as both a guide and benchmark in reaching target audiences. The campaign also incorporated initiatives to create an integrated FedEx that would speak with “one vision, one voice” across all functions, divisions and operating companies. Executive management fully endorsed and supported the campaign from the beginning, enabling Communications to establish the necessary processes to build and sustain the campaign throughout the corporation
. The target audiences were influences (industry and financial analysts; business, financial and technology media; employees) and implementers: (large- and small-business decision makers and shippers).
The objectives were to increase understanding and support of the “new” FedEx Corporation strategy among target audiences; to expand FedEx Corporation competitive market position (particularly among FedEx Ground offerings); and to enhance FedEx corporate brand equity and improve stakeholder value.
 To accomplish this, the PR team set out to construct an internal foundation to align communications with business goals and across functions, and to promote collaboration; to educate and dispel misperceptions about FedEx among strategic business, financial and technology media; to build a “web of influencers” internally and among media, analysts and leading experts; and to capitalize on blockbuster announcements, new products, services and technology, and key “moments in time” to communicate about the new FedEx and its expanded capabilities.
First, the PR team constructed an internal foundation. Communications first needed to obtain corporate-wide support, establish tools and processes, and gather tangible proof points for use externally to launch an effective, sustainable and credible campaign.
The team then instituted processes to focus communications around corporate-reputation goals; created a planning template in line with the Harris Interactive reputation drivers for use in formulating and assessing all communications efforts, and engineered tools and resources for collaboration and information sharing among communicators, introducing InfoCentral, a corporate-wide communications intranet, to connect communicators and integrate various communications functions and initiating cross-functional and cross-operating company media-strategy Communications Board sessions.
The team then infused a broad corporate messaging platform into communications materials and channels; established processes to capture and integrate compelling points of competitive differentiation at all communications touch points; dramatically revamped the “About FedEx” section of fedex.com to encapsulate the new FedEx vision and portfolio of companies; and structured sales communications team to support newly integrated sales force; introduced new sales-focused resources and tools.
 FedEx and Ketchum initiated “The Way Ahead” internal campaign to mobilize all employees around the new FedEx strategy, and educated the media. Responding to research findings, the team sought to close perception gaps and foster understanding of the business model and strategy among agenda-setting media through proactive outreach and effective communications.
The PR team identified a media “inner circle”; allocated media staff to forge relationships and conducted one-on-one and editorial board briefings with target media surrounding the new FedEx; reinforced broad corporate messaging and closed perception gaps.
The team employed a campaign-style process—a “truth squad” approach—to respond immediately to coverage inaccuracies with proof points; initiated education campaigns with outlets or journalists as needed. It also built a “web of influencers”: To supplement FedEx messaging and proof points, the team aggressively targeted strategic thought-leaders to serve as ambassadors, provide added credibility and build support for the new FedEx.
In addition, the company increased the external visibility of FedEx executives; conducted briefings with editors and target media, and leveraged opportunities to communicate FedEx vision and success proof points, particularly to business and financial analysts.
 Finally, Ketchum and FedEx capitalized on blockbuster announcements and “moments in time”: The team enlisted all opportunities to continue to champion the new FedEx and reinforce its success, particularly among strategic audiences, and amplified external outreach and included broad FedEx portfolio messaging in all significant announcements including the FedEx Home Delivery launch and expansions; U.S. Postal Service agreements; “peak” holiday shipping; earnings announcements; customer and vendor announcements; technology briefings; noteworthy speaking and interview opportunities.
The campaign increased understanding and support of the “new” FedEx Corporation strategy among target audiences. Media coverage and analysis increasingly demonstrates support for the FedEx vision, growth opportunities and financials.
Influential journalists and media outlets have issued reports with distinct reversals in position surrounding FedEx; for example, significant, ongoing efforts to educate BusinessWeek editorial staff yielded clear results. While a May 2001 BusinessWeek article by reporter Charles Haddad bitingly questioned the viability of the FedEx strategy against competition, an article by that same reporter in November 2002 reports that FedEx’s outlook is strong, stating, “No one is doubting FedEx’s survival today.”
Research, including a March 2002 Rivel Research Group media survey, revealed significant evolution in media and analyst perception and acceptance of the FedEx strategy against research findings from 2001 and 2000.
Analyst comments indicate increased acceptance of the FedEx strategy, with key influencers stating they expect FedEx to grow ahead of industry peers and to provide higher return on investment.
“…nearly two years later, we sense that the joint marketing of Express and Ground, as well as the extended reach of a much larger sales force may be contributing to the volume growth at FedEx Ground.” (Bear Stearns, analyst report)
 The campaign also expanded FedEx Corporation’s competitive market position (particularly among FedEx Ground offerings). FedEx increased its market position overall and customer behavior reinforced the business model potency. FedEx performance across all emerging business segments, including FedEx Ground business-to-business and residential delivery services, FedEx Ground overnight service, FedEx Express international delivery, and FedEx Freight offerings, improved significantly, exhibiting strong year-over-year volume growth.
Volumes and revenue at FedEx Ground, which include FedEx Home Delivery numbers, increased by 33 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2002. FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery were fundamental in all campaign elements, including new FedEx messaging, “About FedEx,” content and external outreach initiatives throughout the campaign.
A start-up 2 ½ years ago, FedEx Home Delivery grew consistently by “triple digits” on a quarterly basis, increasing volumes by 240 percent during the 2001 fiscal year and 140 percent during the first quarter of fiscal year 2002, reported in September 2002; the service reached profitability in the second quarter of fiscal year 2002, more than one year earlier than initially projected.
FedEx Home Delivery customer base grew from 143 customers in March 2000 to more than 30,000 customers by year-end 2002.
Finally, the campaign enhanced FedEx corporate brand equity and improved stakeholder value.
 FedEx positioning in influential corporate-reputation, brand and service rankings dramatically improved.
FedEx corporate-reputation and brand status in the annual Harris Interactive reputation survey, reported by The Wall Street Journal, increased each year. In the 2001 study, FedEx ranked eighth in overall corporate reputation (from 13 in 2000); the FedEx brand overall ranked fifth in reputation, fifth in management quality, tenth in investment potential and 24th in familiarity.
FedEx stock performed well in poor economic conditions and against peers. With major indices declining, the FedEx stock price increased 35 percent year-over-year in the quarter ending in September 2002.
FedEx communications delivered a new FedEx, evidenced by Fortune’s March 4, 2002 “Most Admired” coverage, and continues to strive for new heights: “Being most admired is all about delivering what you promise to multiple audiences, and that’s something No. 8 FedEx has down pat … FedEx has successfully transcended its image as simply an air express carrier for business to become a one-stop shop for any shipping need.”
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