FedEx brand strategy / positioning case study

FedEx Brand Strategy Analysis

Travel & transportation – logistics & delivery services

Owner of the brand:
FedEx Corporation

Key competitors:

Brand essence

A global express delivery company connecting people and possibilities.

Brand values

Performance, innovation, effectiveness, customer focus.

Brand character

Modern, pioneering, global, effective, reliable, confident.

Dominating archetype

FedEx’s roots couldn’t be more different from that of its biggest competitor, UPS. While UPS was set up as a small business at the beginning of the 20th century by two teenagers running errands and delivering packages on foot and by bicycle, FedEx was envisioned by an ambitious Yale University student, Frederick W. Smith. In a paper he prepared for one of his classes, he outlined the concept of a company specializing in express delivery of goods[1]. Although he didn’t impress his professor, he pursued his vision and in 1973 Federal Express was officially launched. From the start, the company had almost 400 employees and received substantial backing from venture capital companies. FedEx (the name was shortened in 1994) to this day refers to itself as “one of the original venture capital success stories”[2]. Through acquisitions and organic growth, Smith turned FedEx into a 100 Fortune company and he’s still its chairman and CEO.


The most significant difference between FedEx and UPS lies in their business models. Although UPS has, for years, been attempting to communicate its ever-increasing range of capabilities and position itself as a full-service partner to other businesses, the majority of its revenue still stems from ground package delivery[3]. This is what differentiates UPS from FedEx as most of FedEx’s business comes from its air express operation. This difference is also apparent on a visual level. In its communications, FedEx often makes references to aviation and uses pictures of planes, which builds a more distant, aspirational brand image. UPS, on the other hand, uses a homelier symbol – its famous brown truck.


FedEx defines its brand essence as “connecting people and possibilities”. It sees its role as much wider than just delivering goods, as it believes that with every package it also delivers joy, hope, kindness, relief, new possibilities etc. This concept was captured in the “What’s inside” campaign, which marked a new chapter in FedEx’s communications. Until then, the brand had been using humour in its advertising, but now made its approach more serious and purpose-driven in order to highlight “the global impact that FedEx makes every day”[4]. Rajesh Subramaniam, FedEx’s CMO explained: “When we deliver medical supplies to Nepalese earthquake victims, we deliver hope. When we deliver an ecommerce package during the holiday season, we deliver joy. We all understand the powerful idea that we connect people with possibilities.[5]


Internally, FedEx’s brand strategy is translated into the so-called “Purple Promise”, which reads as follows:“I will make every FedEx experience outstanding”[6]. Reportedly, for FedEx the Purple Promise is much more than a corporate document as the entire company’s culture is built around it and all FedEx employees understand and follow it[7].
FedEx, like 
UPS and DHL, is involved in many CSR activities but the company makes it clear that all of them are tightly related to the core of its business, that is, for example, safety, environment, disaster readiness etc.


FedEx branding is one of the most widely acclaimed visual identity systems in the world. It was introduced in 1994 by Landor, together with the change of name (from Federal Express to FedEx). Originally, it was designed to achieve two goals: build one strong FedEx brand (with the help of the new logo and the usage of the colour purple) and emphasize the differences between the various FedEx divisions. For example, FedEx Express was using purple and orange as its flagship colours, FedEx Ground – purple and green, and FedEx Corp. – purple and grey. In 2016, the company decided to put a stronger emphasis on the umbrella brand and simplified the identity system by keeping only its most popular set of colours, that is purple and orange. Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx SVP of Integrated Marketing and Communications said: “As we grow and expand, we’ve recognized that there’s one FedEx brand in the world, and we want to make sure we maximize its value and simplify it for customers. The time was right to make a change.[8]


FedEx is a textbook example of a Hero brand emphasizing its performance – getting things done quickly and delivering on time against all odds.

Most important campaigns

1. “What’s Inside?” (2019)

2. “Broke Down” (2017)

3. “Passive Aggressive” (2016)

4. “Federal Express Commercial” (1979)

Official brand statement:

FedEx connects people and possibilities through our worldwide portfolio of shipping, transportation, e-commerce and business services. We offer integrated business applications through our collaboratively managed operating companies — collectively delivering extraordinary service to our customers — using the expertise and reliability represented by the FedEx brand.[9]

Interesting facts:

There’s a “hidden” arrow in the FedEx logo between the letters “E” and “x” – it’s supposed to represent forward thinking and moving forward.[10]


1. WARC on FedEx’s brand purpose
“FedEx Pursues Marketing With Purpose”, WARC, Nov 2018,

2. “The Purple Promise” document

3. Adweek on the simplification of Fedex’s branding
C. Birkner, “FedEx Is Making All Of Its Logos Purple And Orange, Its Most Recognized Color Scheme”, Adweek, Aug 2016,

  2. A. Adamson, “Culture Eats Brand Strategy For Lunch At FedEx”, Forbes, Mar 2017,
  3. J. Wei, “UPS Vs. FedEx: Comparing Business Models and Strategies”, Dec 2015,
  4. “FedEx Pursues Marketing With Purpose”, WARC, Nov 2018,
  5. A. Adamson, “Culture Eats Brand Strategy For Lunch At FedEx”, Forbes, Mar 2017,
  7. A. Adamson, “Culture Eats Brand Strategy For Lunch At FedEx”, Forbes, Mar 2017,
  8. C. Birkner, “FedEx Is Making All Of Its Logos Purple And Orange, Its Most Recognized Color Scheme”, Adweek, Aug 2016,
  10. F. W. Smith, “A Letter from Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President and CEO”,

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