How Xerox spinoff Conduent plans to stay invisible while marketing itself aggressively

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CMO John Kennedy only wants businesses to know about the spinoff.

On Jan. 1, a Fortune 500-scale company was born, and this morning, its leaders will ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Formerly part of Xerox, Conduent boasts $6.7 billion in revenue and 90,000 employees. While Xerox has become synonymous with photocopying, Chief Marketing Officer John Kennedy said he wants Conduent "to be synonymous with creating terrific experiences between businesses and governments and the people they serve." But what he doesn’t want is the average consumer to know the brand exists.

"We touch almost every consumer," Kennedy said. The business-process outsourcing company handles medical benefits for 15 states, which means that 67 percent of insured Americans have interacted with the company without knowing it. Likewise, 40 percent of worker’s compensation recipients come in contact with Conduent as well as a large percentage of those who give and receive child support. Nearly half of the nation’s highway toll booths are operated by the Xerox spinoff, and those red light cameras that send you tickets in the mail? Those are run by Conduent, too.

"The question, as a marketer, is whether we want them to know it is us," he said. "We're happy to be invisible. If we're invisible, that means that interaction went terrific."

Kennedy, however, is far from an invisible figure in the industry. The veteran marketer spent almost two decades at IBM, eventually serving as the vice president of corporate marketing before moving to Xerox in 2014 as its CMO. Toni Clayton-Hine will take his place at Xerox and focus on the legacy part of the brand—information, printing, communication—as the BPO part of the company has moved over as Conduent.

But Kennedy is not alone in his new position. He hired former NRG Chief Communications Officer Karen Cleeve as Conduent’s communications director and built a team of about 60 marketers scattered across the U.S. and Europe who commute virtually to work. They’re tasked with making sure business leaders and government officials know Conduent’s name while keeping the brand out of the general public’s eye.

To do this, they’ll use content marketing, in the form of infographics, video and white papers, that explains not only the brand’s capabilities but also focuses on the evolution of the 19 industries that Conduent serves (and subsequently how Conduent can help them adapt to the changing environment). There’s also a search component as Kennedy acknowledges that decision-makers are looking to Google, rather than committee, when choosing which BPO company to sign. But nothing beats meeting clients in person, Kennedy adds, so his team will be attending industry events like this year’s healthcare conference HIMSS in Orlando and the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in Montreal.

To announce its arrival, Conduent will advertise on television and in print through Xerox’s AOR Young & Rubicam, but Kennedy admits "it won’t go for long" and will only be used "to create buzz." Instead, the brand will rely largely on marketing communications agency Text100 to assist with PR, while Connecticut-based Scrum 50 will aid in and social media and video strategy. VSA Partners is working on the brand’s continuous design, but the three parallelograms logo was fashioned by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, the design firm behind NBC’s iconic peacock logo.

"I would hesitate to call anybody an agency of record," Kennedy clarified. "They're all a part of our agency team, and these days, you don't go to one agency anymore. They all do good work."

"Hopefully, over time, people will say, ‘Oh I've heard of Conduent. They're the spinoff from Xerox,’" he continued. "To me as a marketer and communications person, this is a dream come true."

The nightmare would, of course, be if the people in question happened to be consumers complaining about an unpleasant processing experience. "Going through a toll, processing a claim, getting a payment, getting help on a customer care line, finding a parking space—those are things that the faster they go, the happier you are," Kennedy said. "It's the kind of things that you really don't even think about every day as a consumer," which is why the CMO hopes Conduent becomes the brand everyone knows without even thinking about it.

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