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Brand Suicide

Will someone please go to FedEx headquarters and give them a wedgie?  They need something to wake them up.

They are killing the Kinko’s brand and replacing it with FedEx Office.

1. Great brands are priceless and irreplaceable. 

You can’t create a great brand. You earn it with decades of marketing, customer service, and great products. The 38-year old Kinko’s brand is more important than the stores. It means copies. It means save your butt in an emergency. It means countless personal memories of late nights in college collating party flyers, finishing term papers, and party invitations.

By eliminating the brand, you’re not just killing a brand, you’re disposing of one of the most sacred assets in the world of business.  Maybe 38 years from now "FedEx Office" will be as respected, but I doubt it.

2. There is no "and" in "brand"

A brand can’t be two things. FedEx is amazing shipping. Kinko’s is convenient printing.  You can’t be the "we ship stuff really well and also copy your stuff and whatever else you want to do with paper" company.

FedEx is going to weaken and dilute the FedEx brand by trying to add a second meaning. 

This is marketing 101. Read every book by Al Ries or any marketing textbook. Read this post. This is so obvious that I get the feeling that FedEx got suckered by an agency that will make a lot of money executing the Kinko’s removal and subsequent FedEx Office launch campaign.

Hey FedEx: Your CMO will be gone in 3 years (they all are). Are you going to let him kill a billion dollar asset because it sounds good this week?

3. Lesson: Protect your brands and keep them singular. 

The rest of what you do is optional – the brand brings in the customers.

Guys, if Kinko’s isn’t doing well … did you consider that it’s because a) you screwed up the brand by adding FedEx to it, or b) your employees are almost entirely incompetent.

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  1. Natalie L. November 23, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Andy, couldn’t agree with you more. Kinko’s a big brand name and they’re just discarding it? You go to Google for a search, clean your ears with a Q-Tip, blow your nose into a Kleenex and drink a Coke at the diner right before you head to the Kinkos place. Yeah, even if it isn’t an actual Kinko’s store, you know what Kinko’s means! It’s not easy to conquer any industry and turn your Proper noun into the common use noun! I trusted Kinko’s because it saved my butt in college. Who the heck is FedEx office?!

  2. Ted Wright November 23, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    You are just the best short format writer in WOMM.

  3. mack collier November 23, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    This is even worse than AT&T burying Cingular. Amazing how CEOs can let their egos blind them to good business sense.

  4. iGoByDoc November 23, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    Andy, I agree 100%.
    I am always over at the FedEx Kinko’s and I just noticed that they had a sign up saying they are now FedEx Office.
    Now, I never went to FedEx Kinko’s other than to ship stuff, and maybe get a passport picture. Using Kinko’s for copies… well, let’s just say they bend you over and do not even say thanks… RIP OFF! Anyway…
    To kill that brand is insane on a couple of fronts…
    #1 Cost: Can you even imagine hoe much money they will be spending on new signs, shirts ads etc to get this new name switched over? Who pays for that in this economy? Oh yeah, people who spend $1.00 for a color copy that costs $0.04 – 0.08 cents a page.
    #2 Kinko’s IMO is an Iconic company with a great story behind it. But I am not sure the founder of Kinko’s has anything to do with the new company or culture anyway.
    As for reasons why… maybe they feel they have a confused business and are trying to be more like UPS and the UPS store?
    However… while I agree with you, at the end of the day I am not sure I care. Not like I have stock in the company. If at the end of the day it makes them more money good for them and if it saves us some money down the road, good for us!
    – Doc

  5. Jim Kukral November 23, 2008 at 8:18 pm #

    I’m with you Andy. This is a huge mistake. Some Madison avenue agency convinced them to do this. In a few years, that agency will be fired, and they’ll “come back” to Kinkos. Guaranteed.

  6. Steve Lovelace November 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    Right on, Andy. Brands can’t confuse the audience with multiple messages. And since we know the *audience* – not the company – dictates what the ultimate brand is, the stronger message will rise to top of mind. It’s truly “May the best message win”, and for the sake of the company, it better be the right one.

  7. Gunjan Rawal November 24, 2008 at 8:57 am #

    Agree with you Andy. If, per the business week story, the ‘Kinkos’ brand is limiting, i wonder why reinvigorating the brand is not an option…

  8. Larry J. Frieders November 24, 2008 at 9:53 am #

    Personally, I never thought KINKO’S was a useful name and I was never tempted to enter a KINKO’S for a copy – or whatever they were selling. I found the name to be frivolous at best, and almost insulting at worst. I hardly thought that a “kinky” business needed my patronage. Perhaps the name may have been derived from something logical and relevant.That kind of logic would have kept me out of a restaurant called STANKES’ (I DO know of people with the last name, Stankes). While their munu might have been outstanding I can’t get the “stink” idea out of my head.
    Moving KINKO’s to the FedEx named helped clarify my perception – but just a little. Removing the old kinky name helps even more. I think I’ll have less aversion to FedEx Office than I’d have to “Kinky FedEx”. The new name says more about what I can expect from their outlets than any combination they’ve used in the past.
    I think dumping the KINKO’S brand is a well thought out, legitimate decision on the part of FedEx.

  9. Laura Roeder November 24, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    Wow. As Natalie pointed out kinkos has come to mean the place where you get stuff printed! Everyone in america knows that. But a person who knows kinkos would probably walk by a “Fedex Office” and have no clue what they do. The guess would probably be that they are fedex shipping center that only deals w/ business customers.

  10. Don The Idea Guy November 24, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    I don’t know what you guys are talking about — this is THE BEST thing in the world that could happen to the Kinko’s brand (and by BEST, I mean best for my friend Rick who runs a print and copy shop that had to deal with Kinko’s as a better branded competitor in his market.)
    Rick always had comparable pricing, and better service, and better quality. Kinko’s just always came out on top by way of brand recognition. Nice of them to take that advantage off the table!

  11. Tim Jahn November 24, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    Kinko’s is the copy place. Where else do people go for copies?
    Another great example of how being a giant corporation with loads of cash to do whatever the hell you want can blind you to the simplest aspects of business.

  12. Nick S. November 24, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    I don’t think anyone one should jump on Andy’s bandwagen without thinking for a minute. Do you really think that FedEx is making this decision without a whole lot of brand perception research? Many here are saying, “Kinko’s is the copy place…”. Well, guess what? My opinion is that Kinkos is crap and I’ve had so many awful experiences there that I’d never, ever, step foot in one again.
    On the other hand, I’ve had great experiences with FedEx, so in my opinion, this is a great move. However, I’m not silly enough to think that it’s just my opinion that matters. It’s the collective market place’s opinions that matter, and I’d bet anything that FedEx has done their homework on this.
    Did anyone ever stop to think that the notion of a “copy place” is going to be outdated pretty soon? Copies? Why would I need copies? I’ll just email a pdf. Maybe FedEx is on to something – they’re moving Kinko’s out of the outdated copy market and into a more “office solution” market. That makes sense to me.
    Research is driving this decision, not some CMO’s opinion. I promise you that.

  13. Carl V. Natale November 25, 2008 at 8:00 am #

    Here’s the problem: “The 38-year old Kinko’s brand is more important than the stores. It means copies.”
    Technology has changed a lot in 38 years. I used to need Kinkos years ago. But today I have a copier sitting on top of my desk. It also is a printer and scanner. More people are able to do quality printing and copying themselves.
    FedEx want the stores to be more than copies. They now offer a host of office support services – including shipping. Would you really want to run a copy service?
    FedEx doesn’t want to just ship your documents. It wants to solve your business problems. These are tough times that require investment in change.
    The Kinkos brand dies because people associate it with making copies. It’s strong identity is what kills it. FedEx sees a need to change the business model and the old brand was in the way.
    You’re right that it might take 38 years for the brand to be as “venerated” as Kinkos. Maybe not. It took a lot less time than that for Kinkos to become the copy place. And besides, this is about the long term. Isn’t that what we want in a business? Don’t you wish the Big 3 automakers had the same long view?

  14. Mike Santoro November 25, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    Great post. I think you’d find few smart marketers who would disagree. So my question is why? Who was driving this process and what was their rationale? It just doesn’t make any sense.

  15. Brett Duncan November 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    I’m torn on this one. After reading the article on BusinessWeek, I can see where it makes sense to kill the Kinko’s brand if, in fact, it does own “copies.”
    However, you’re dead-on with your second point that FedEx doesn’t own documents. To be quite honest, Xerox (the Document Company) should’ve bought Kinko’s. That makes sense (and it secures a great outlet for your own products).
    Money quote = “Your CMO will be gone in 3 years (they all are). Are you going to let him kill a billion dollar asset because it sounds good this week?”

  16. Lindsay Price December 1, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    Really interesting post. As someone just starting to fully comprehend the concept of ‘Brand,’ it’s great to see some concrete examples of what not to do.
    I use Kinkos all the time on the road, and it’s never for the FedEx part. But now when I think of the name it’s always FedEx-Kinkos. It’s as if one is swallowing the other….

  17. Dani H December 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm #

    I remember going to Kinko’s to make invitations for my graduation party and printing quality pictures for school projects. Kinko’s was always at the top of my mind if I ever needed multiple copies that I couldn’t make at home. The people always seemed friendly and they would try to fulfill your needs, but changing the name to FedEx Office is a turn off for me. I think of FedEx as fast shipping and reliable, but that has nothing to do with my image of Kinko’s. It will take too much money and many years for people to think of the FedEx offices as a friendly place to make copies, invitations and projects and to add the whole concept of shipping and handling too. The brand will likely be hurt from the change and people will not know what to think about the new desired image of the company, while others will see the change as a convenient place to get multiple errands done.

  18. Cali Marketer December 3, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    Funny how so many of the comments reference college, and use the past tense: “I WENT to Kinko’s.” Almost every example of what is cited nostalgically as a positive Kinko’s experience involves something people now do at home or online, e.g. “printed party invitations for my graduation,” etc. Folks, the world has changed. Kinko’s was identified with something in a certain time and place. So was Woolworth, Polaroid, etc. Game over.
    Good for FedEx for trying to do something relevant with the real estate. In my mind, the Kinko’s brand just got in the way by conjuring up exactly the kind of long-gone needs reminisced about here.

  19. Eric December 22, 2008 at 1:23 pm #

    The one big turning point that is missing in this article is when Kinko’s the investment company that held Kinko’s before FedEx bought them decided to stop providing 24/7 services at a number of centers across the country. Some centers even closing as early as 6 pm in some places. If you coorelate that timing with revenue you can see revenue actually declines from that point on – is it a coincidence or the beginning of the end?
    That was probably the first significant move to make the operating cost lower in leiu of extra revenue.


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