From Senior Technical Editor Rich Merritt:
I have a soft spot in my heart for Square D. Back in the 1980s, in another lifetime, in another career, I was the PR account exec for Square D’s PR agency. We had replaced Square D’s long-time agency, and it was our assignment to beef up Square D’s image, improve market share, and obtain sales leads. We did all that in spades, more or less flooding the control, automation, power and plant engineering magazines with a blitz of bylined articles, case histories, press releases, new product announcements, press conferences and so on. On the ad side, our ad folks developed a hard-hitting campaign that positioned Square D as the leader it was. We had Allen-Bradley in our sights, and were taking market share.
The products that Square D offered were technical marvels (the first PLC to offer Ethernet communications, for example); the product managers and development engineers were top notch; and the campaign was moving along gloriously. The only obstacle was upper management, who primarily came from the sales and distribution side, didn’t understand marketing, and didn’t like ideas that were NIH. (Someday, I’ll tell you the story of the time we tried to get Square D into an Indy Car). Nevertheless, we pressed on.
Then Schneider came along, bought Square D, and turned our world upside down. We survived three complete company reorganizations, until the management shuffles brought in someone who wanted the old agency back. It might have had something to do with agency and Square D execs playing golf in North Carolina, but I can’t swear to it, and I don’t know the entire story.
We weren’t the only ones to get busted. Engineers and product managers left the company in droves, too. The once mighty Square D industrrial control steamroller faded. Today, Square D is known mostly for its superb power and electrical distribution products. And its annual management reorganizations, of course.
I see, with the latest management appointment, that Schneider still thinks that sales and distribution people can run a major automation company. Maybe they should raid Rockwell, Invensys, Honeywell or Emerson and hire some marketing and management folks who understand the North American industrial controls business to help. Such folks will help the new boss reclaim the old glory and put Square D/Schneider back in contention in the industrial control business, where it so rightly belongs.
My advice to Andy Gravitt, the new VP of Industrial Controls is: Andy, listen to your new AD/PR agency, Bader Rutter. That’s a good agency you got there, and they know how to market to the industrial world. They will give you good advice. Take it. Increase their budget, too. You have a long way to go to bring Square D back from the depths, and you have to spend lots of money to do it. And raid Rockwell et al to get experienced product managers and marketing people.
What do YOU think?