The Name of the Game? Branding!
‘A new broom sweeps well,’ says an Italian proverb—and companies today are no strangers to cleaning house and reinventing themselves with modern, global names. Find out how three logistics companies rebranded their corporate assets and the challenges they faced finding the perfect name.
In 1966, The Mammas and the Papas scored a chart-topping hit with their song, “Monday, Monday.” Now, nearly 40 years later, the
consulting arm of one of the world’ s largest audit firms is looking for a hit of its own.
PwC Consulting’ s recent announcement that it will change its name to Monday as part of its impending separation from PricewaterhouseCoopers has generated a lot of publicity. But contrary to The Mamas and the Papas lament that you “can’t trust that day,” PwC Consulting is putting a different spin on its new name, appealing to the simplicity and recognition of the word. Its marketing campaign marries allusions of “a fresh start and a positive attitude” with a happy, new azure-blue corporate logo.
The paradox of a name like Monday, however, underscores the difficulty and risk tied with rebranding a corporate entity around a
nondescript word. It also illuminates the compulsory support of
public relations, marketing, sales, and other internal departments to ensure a successful transition.
In the logistics and supply chain sector, the pressure to rebrand or
grow brand equity is equally as great given the impact of globalism, the rapid evolution of technology, and a blurring of lines between niche industries. In the wake of the dot.com meltdown, companies are more willing to reinvent themselves—and their customers, for the most part, are growing more resilient to these whims.
That said, businesses need to be savvy in their rebranding initiatives says Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor, a New York City-based firm that specializes in brand consulting.
“Companies will have to be creative and visionary about the direction of their brands,” he writes in a recent paper, Brand Architecture Trends. “In doing so, they should look beyond the immediate quarterly returns or annual plans to a long-term strategy. Corporate mission—meaningful and visionary—must drive the brand-building process in the future.”
Seeking out today’ s supply chain visionaries, Inbound Logistics identified three companies—a carrier, an IT provider, and a
third-party logistics provider—that have changed their name in the past year. While the motives are unique in each instance, the overriding goals to reinvigorate and/or reinvent corporate strategies, attack new markets, and attract new customers are mutual.
Cendian Jumps ‘Ship’Chem to Navigate Global Market
What does rebranding have to do with contemporary architecture? Plenty, if you ask Mark Kaiser, CEO of Atlanta, Ga.based Cendian, a third-party logistics provider that specializes in shipping chemicals.
“We wanted a brand that would stand the test of time,” recalls Kaiser. So it enlisted the help of Landor Associates to find a replacement for its startup name, ShipChem.
“Landor came up with some good names, but we found some of those choices similar to contemporary architecture—they look great when they go up, but they just don’ t stand the test of time.”
Cendian’ s business is shipping chemicals. With more than $1 billion in contracts currently in place, a network of more than 300 logistics service providers, and shipments moving across the world in virtually every mode—bulk truck, dry van, marine, rail, and air—ShipChem was a perfectly good name.
But Kaiser and other executives were looking for a name the company could grow with. ShipChem was descriptive, but confining in terms of how and to what extent the business could grow.
“ShipChem’ s value proposition was beyond shipping chemicals,” says Landor’ s Allen Adamson. “The existing name was somewhat limiting in terms of what the company’ s long-term vision was.” From the very beginning, Cendian’ s vision was to phase in a new name as soon as it established itself. ShipChem was merely a surrogate as the company sought out a more enduring appellation.
“The key issue was that ShipChem was a project name we used while we were developing our business,” says Kaiser. “We needed a substantial name that could work anywhere in the world. ShipChem doesn’ t work well globally because the ‘p to c’ transition is difficult to pronounce.”
Unlike most rebranding processes, Cendian’ s task was not driven by a corporate overhaul or a new direction in its business strategy; the initiative was simply the second phase in the company’ s original naming blueprint.
“We’ re a large company operating in 80 countries so we needed to make sure that our image and our branding reflected the business as we are today. The branding and the naming was catching up with the sophistication of our business,” Kaiser notes.
With assistance from Landor, the marketing team at ShipChem endeavored to find a name that could function globally and still have the latitude to grow with its future business interests.
The word Cendian itself, is meaningless, but gives ShipChem a blank slate to work with. In time, Kaiser hopes that its name will become synonymous with shipping chemicals. Lest anyone think otherwise,the company made sure to include a descriptor—”Chemical Logistics”—in its new corporate logo.
“We maintained our descriptor so that it would be easy to understand what we do without having to have a cute name that had a lot of meaning,” says Kaiser. “I jokingly say that Cendian means chemical logistics because it’ s a coined name and has no other definition.”
Concurrent with the renaming effort, Cendian kicked off a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign to support and publicize the name change. “It was a coordinated strategy to build a brand and get our message out,” says Kaiser.
The marketing campaign, which incidentally was the first major publicity initiative in the company’ s short history, proved to be an integral part of the entire rebranding process. Without a major internal overhaul, Cendian relied on its ambitious marketing push to convey its new name to its customers and inquiring industry minds.
“Choosing the right name was a key component of our go-to-market strategy. When our business was founded in early 2000, we had to get started and we had to have a name,” says Kaiser. “But rather than locking into a name we took the approach of using a generic name. We spent the better part of a year pulling together everything that has culminated in the permanent name of the business and all advertising and branding activities to support the name.”
Only time will tell how successful Cendian’ s rebranding phase is. But given the creativity of its name and the flexibility it affords future growth and change, Cendian is hopeful that it will become its own descriptor in years to come.
Software Pioneer McHugh Finds a New Home in RedPrairie
Chances are when you first see or hear the name RedPrairie, it conjures some image in your brain: a sweltering summer day in the Midwest; maybe a scene from a Steinbeck or Cather novel; or for those in the know, the latest reincarnation of the Waukesha, Wisc.-based McHugh Software.
Whatever your initial impression, the juxtaposition of “red” and “prairie” presents a palpable confluence of images sure to turn the head of even a casual observer.
RedPrairie is a far cry from the tried and true, blue-collar name its predecessor, McHugh Software, donned for 27 years. But given the radical new direction of the company, the name is an ideal fit.
“We decided first and foremost—forgetting the name change—to change our company culture, our measures, how we deliver our product to customers, and how we sell, based on what our customers’ ROI is going to be,” says John Jazwiec, company results leader of RedPrairie.
“Our new approach was so big a change in the marketplace that the only way to properly illuminate that to the market was to change the name of the company,” he adds.
So that’ s precisely what it did.
The new name is intended to convey two messages, according to Jazwiec: change and calm decisionmaking. “The ‘red’ connotes change and the ‘prairie’ implies a calming affect in the marketplace —letting the customer shift the risk from itself to us,” he says.
Accepting the risk of its customers perhaps pales in comparison to the gamble RedPrairie took in transforming a company as rich in history as McHugh Software. But, as Jazwiec asserts, the name change was inevitable, and because of the extreme nature of its rebranding effort, a calculated risk at worst.
“I don’ t believe there was a lot of risk to it. There is a larger risk not changing the name, having us be known as the same type of company, and not getting our message out properly,” he says.
“It’ s not like trying to brand the name to millions of consumers. It’ s really a matter of branding it to a relatively small number of people
inside the industry,” he adds.
Landor’ s Allen Adamson shares a similar sentiment, suggesting that the difficulty and/or risk in successfully rebranding a company depends on the size and scope of its customer base.
“Rebranding is communicating a single idea to a lot of people; it needs to stand for something different and relevant,” he says. “If it’ s a small company with a small customer base, rebranding is generally pretty easy because the company is trying to reach a finite set of customers.”
In truth, branding is often a greater risk internally, gettingemployees to support the new direction of the company—especially with an organization as deeply rooted as McHugh Software. Despite this inherent risk, RedPrairie had full support from everyone within the company.
“There is always a risk in rebranding if you don’ t do it right,” says Jazwiec. “But we had the right internal and external people to make it happen.”
Part of RedPrairie’ s initial success was making sure everyone within the company was committed to a fundamentally new approach in how it conducted its business.
“We believed that changing the name of the company would give our customers, our partners, and our customer advocates (employees) the real sense that we were very different in our approach,” says Jazwiec.
The reorganization of the company was a result of this change in direction—coined the Red Prairie approach. The crux of this new philosophy is driven by the company’ s adoption of a Six Sigma, “defect elimination” methodology.
“Instead of selling product to customers, we assign them suites of products that allow them to drive certain costs out of the logistics network,” says Jazwiec. “It starts with establishing Red Prairie Metrics (RPMs)—metrics that help us measure how a company is performing today. Customers get an indication how these RPMs stack up against averages in best-of-breed companies, and can track changes in measurements after they have implemented our solutions.
Essentially, RedPrairie challenges customers to quantifiably measure their results according to this new set of metrics. In turn, both sides are held accountable for the success and/or failure of their collaborative efforts.
As a result of this change in direction, RedPrairie doesn’ t consider itself simply a software provider anymore, which explains why it dropped that descriptor from its name. “Our mission is to help customers take costs out of logistics and provide measurable results,” says Jazwiec.
American Freightways and Viking Shine Under FedEx Umbrella
When FedEx announced this past February that it was folding American Freightways and Viking Freight—two of its affiliate carriers—into its latest brand incarnation, FedEx Freight, the decision was more or less a formality two years in the waiting.
One of the strongest and most visible brands in the world, there is little doubt as to why FedEx decided to tie the two companies to its mega brand. The decision was driven less by market pressure and more by expectation, says Dennie Carey, vice president of marketing, FedEx Freight.
“We saw a lot of opportunity for synergies and collaboration between the two companies,” says Carey. “Given the strength both companies had in the marketplace—and the strength of their cultures—we took those positive attributes and created a name even more recognized in the marketplace—FedEx Freight.”
Since 1994, when Federal Express officially contracted its name to FedEx, the Memphis, Tenn.-based expediter has achieved overwhelming success in spinning off its satellite companies and tying them to its mega brand. In a day and age where global has become synonymous with catchy, all-encompassing—and often indecipherable—names, the simplicity of the FedEx contraction has an appeal all its own.
“FedEx Freight follows the same kind of naming convention we have used before, using FedEx plus a descriptor that identifies what that entity does,” says Carey. “The naming methodology also plays into the FedEx mantra, visible in its current marketing campaign: Whatever your shipping needs, “there’ s a FedEx for that.”
Aside from cosmetic changes in its new logo, uniforms, and fleet design, the transition to FedEx Freight has also given American Freightways and Viking Freight the opportunity to update and integrate their existing technologies.
“We’ ve made strides to migrate to a single technology platform,” says Carey. “We operate independently but compete collectively.”
As for the risk associated with this endeavor, Carey notes there was little worry about how customers would respond, but concern about acceptance among FedEx employees.
“There’ s always an element of concern. Externally, I didn’ t think there would be much of an issue,” he says. “We did wonder how it would be accepted internally because there is a lot of pride in American Freightways and Viking Freight. But it has been absolutely astounding how the employees embraced the name change to FedEx. I think there is a pride in being associated with FedEx.”
While both Viking Freight and American Freightways will continue to maintain separate operations and serve their own regional markets, they will work closely with one another and with other FedEx operating companies to enhance service to their customer base. When necessary, the two companies will be identified by the regions they serve—FedEx East and FedEx West.
“For all the positive images that American Freightways and Viking Freight have had in the past, being associated with FedEx raises the bar and takes us to the level of recognition we didn’ t have before,” adds Carey.
“We’ re not taking anything away from their positive attributes; we’re bringing forth the cultures of both companies and making it better than it was,” he adds. “When you become associated with a name like FedEx you become more recognized not only domestically and globally, but for the reputation of all the FedEx companies.”
No doubt, the folks at FedEx are hoping its freight division will enhance an already robust reputation.