Back in the bad old days in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Rockwell Automation was struggling with either being Rockwell International or being Allen-Bradley, et al., it was very hard to figure out what Rockwell Automation’s brand was. Many seemingly ill-considered and apparently short term decisions caused serious brand abuse to occur, and as I’ve pointed out before, brand negatives formed by brand abuse are very long lasting. It is like fighting a ghost. It takes forever for current positive brand values will completely erase old brand negatives.
Here’s a case in point. In 1976 (yes, way back in the day), I was the first rep appointed by the brand new Krohne America Inc. after their decision to cancel their master distributorship with Rise Inc. (now known as K-Tek)…and I took my brand new product line up to CH2M-Hill to show it off. I met with their only corporate instrumentation and controls engineer (they were still small then), who informed me that he had been a POW in Germany in WWII, and he would NEVER buy a German product regardless of how good it was. He didn’t care that Krohne was the best magnetic flowmeter on the market (it was, at that time). He didn’t care that Christian Dubbick (Krohne’s owner) had fought in the German anti-Hitler resistance (he did, and yes, there was one). He didn’t care…all he knew was the “brand negatives” of being German outweighed every other thing. It took until John left the firm before a German product was ever used by CH2M-Hill.
There are lots of other examples…and we know them all.
Rockwell’s new branding strategy is very important, because it is customer focused.
As John Bernaden, Rockwell’s new director of marketing, points out, “This is really about customer intimacy.” Rockwell is making a fundamental shift between product centric marketing (and customer relationships, natch) to value derived, customer focused marketing. This not only involves new product and new system sales, but also is key to understanding the maintenance strategy Rockwell is moving along with: Predict, Prevent, React.
This change comes directly from the top. Bernaden quoted Keith Nosbusch: “All parts of the business must work together effectively to provide value to the end customer.”
What Bernaden wants Rockwell’s customers to say about them (this is called positioning) is, “Rockwell Automation understands my business, gives me what I need, solves my problems with the best automation technology and manufacturing expertise, and is always there to help me succeed and grow.”
Do you hear anything there that is product centered? Neither do I. Do you hear anything there that is profit-center centered (as in we can fleece these sheep this many times this quarter)? No, I didn’t either.
What I hear is a strong commitment to a new set of business values that are well in tune with what the customers actually do want.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Rockwell just spent two and a half bunches of money doing customer surveys to find this stuff out.
Rockwell has learned something important: Customers define value.
That’s why this new branding will eventually erase those nagging old brand negatives.