In October 1937 Chester Carlson, a patent attorney in New York, invented a process called electro photography. In 1938, this was renamed Xerography and the first known photocopy was the “10-22-38 Astoria”. The Xerography copying process went on to become one of the most well known inventions of the 20th century. Carlson received world acclaim and became extremely wealthy as his invention created a billion-dollar industry. It is estimated that Carlson gave away almost $100 million to charity and foundations before his death in 1968.
But Xerography was not, at least at first, a popular invention. In fact, it was ten years before Carlson found a company to develop Xerography. A New York-based photo-paper manufacturer called The Haloid Company took up the challenge. The Haloid Company later went on to become Xerox Corporation.
The First Office Copier
In 1955, Haloid – by then Haloid Xerox – produced Copyflo, the first automated xerographic machine. However, it wasn’t until 22 years after electro photography had first been conceived that the first true office copier was produced. 1958 saw the introduction of the first-ever commercial push button photocopier machine the 914.
Xerox Machine Introduction
The 914 was a phenomenal success. In just three years, Haloid Xerox’s income went from $2 million in 1960 – when the first 914 was sold – to over $22 million by 1963.In 1961, Haloid Xerox shortened its name to Xerox and its stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Their phenomenal success continued as Xerox introduced 24 new products over the next 20 years.
Changes in Market
But Xerox domination was about to change. New manufacturers were appearing on the sidelines, gearing up to challenge Xerox and re-brand what the world knew as a Xerox machine to a photocopy machine or photocopier. One of the greatest marketing battles of the 20th century was about to begin.
Xerox vs the Copier
Ricoh was emerging as a potential competitor to Xerox as early as 1955 when they developed the RiCopy 101 Diazo copier. By 1975 they had developed the prize-winning RiCopy DT 1200 and were starting to challenge Xerox’s hold over the market. The next decade would see a surprising change as companies traditionally known for photography began to break into the office equipment market. Brands such as Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Sharp and Canon started to produce small office copiers that were to challenge Xerox’s domination of the business copier market.
Meanwhile, even Xerox’s domination of the high-volume photocopier market was coming under threat from Kodak and Oce.
New Brands Not Trusted
Manufacturers quickly found that Xerox held enormous customer loyalty. To break this down, copier dealerships were founded. In each country, small local dealerships emerged that offered a “local service”, sold by local people. This classic guerrilla marketing move attacked Xerox in a way they hadn’t anticipated. Since Xerox was a global corporation, the one thing they couldn’t offer was the intimacy of a small, local business.
Canon was probably the most successful copier company to employ this tactic. By 1985, they had become the world’s leading photocopier company. Canon invested heavily in development and went on to produce the first colour copier.
Re-branding the Xerox Machine as the Photocopier
The Xerox rivals encouraged their dealers to correct customers whenever they referred to their brand of photocopier as a “Xerox machine”. Terms such as “Xeroxing” were corrected to “copying” and the “Xerox Machine” became the “photocopier machine“. All of this worked at dissolving the impact and hold of the Xerox brand.
Today, Xerox continues to be one of the world leaders and a hugely influential and trusted brand name. Despite this, they are no longer the copier market leaders. Whilst the main battle in the photocopier market was being fought between 1975 and 1985 Xerox neglected development in their core business and instead invested millions into the computer market. The line extension for them was difficult despite developing revolutionary technology such as an operating system which was a forerunner to Windows and inventing the computer mouse. Between 1975 and 1985, Xerox was up against another brand name which has already made a huge impact in the computer market: IBM. Had Xerox continued to defend their core business during the industry’s formative years, the photocopier market today would perhaps have looked very different.
Tags: History of Photocopier Machine