When it comes to using technology to ship and track packages, no company has been at the forefront more than FedEx. Started in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1971, the company now operates out of Memphis, Tennessee, and ships upwards of 15 million packages every day.
In the 1990s and 2000s, FedEx’s brand became synonymous with sports, first through the smiling orange logo of the FedEx Orange Bowl and later in professional sports, when it placed its name on the homes of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, FedEx Field, and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the FedEx Forum.
Today, the FedEx brand is one of the most recognizable in the world. Not only are its colors of purple and orange synonymous with its delivery and office services, but the arrow in its logo has become a well-known symbol for speed and helping businesses move in the right direction.
But it’s FedEx’s commitment to cutting-edge technology that has set it apart over the years. In 1978, FedEx made its first move toward computerizing its services by introducing COSMOS, a system that allowed the company to keep track of all of its packages and people. In 1986, the company made another major leap forward when it introduced bar-code scanning for packaging and made it possible for customers to track their packages.
Entering a New World
When the internet grew in the early 1990s, FedEx was there again to make sure it was part of the changing world of shipping. In 1994, the company became the first to allow customers to track their packages over the internet by moving their scanned bar-codes online to FedEx.com. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without package scanning, but FedEx was the first to add what’s become an essential service for package delivery across the globe.
While FedEx has consistently been a top brand in the shipping industry since the 1970s, it’s far from infallible. One of its worst failures was ZapMail, a 1980s fax service that guaranteed delivery of five pages in two hours for a flat rate of $35. The service was never popular and was quickly discontinued, costing the company millions of dollars.
The company has also had its problems with the rise of Amazon in recent years. As one of the largest shipping companies in the nation, FedEx has traditionally competed with UPS and the United States Postal Service for shipping across the world. The rise of Amazon has forced FedEx to adjust its strategy to counter the power of the one-stop shopping site’s network.
You can hardly think of FedEx these days without thinking of FedEx Office, which came into existence in 2004 when FedEx acquired Kinko’s. FedEx expanded its operations to include office work in response to a business world with a greater emphasis on technology. In 2008, FedEx dropped the Kinko’s name. FedEx Office remains a popular service that allows customers to fax, email, print and conduct other office tasks well after normal working hours.
FedEx has also seen major success with its innovative advertising campaigns. The company is well-known for its creative ads broadcast during major events, such as the Super Bowl. It has also regularly featured advertisements poking fun at its names, such as when it pointed out that FedEx Ground was fast despite its name.
FedEx’s combination of effective marketing, innovative technology and reliable service has landed the company a 25-year run on on the Fortune 500 list, where it currently holds the 47th spot.