As CEOs around the globe navigate the recession, many are heartened to know that they can at least count on their company's brand name as a bulwark against economic uncertainty.
But what happens when that trusted brand disappears overnight? It happened to Bob Allen, CEO of Brink's Home Security, who on June 30 announced that the firm's name was changing to Broadview Security as a condition of its October 2008 spinoff agreement with its former parent, The Brink's Co. ( (BCO)
) (The name change allowed the spinoff to receive preferential tax treatment.)
"We had a strong brand, but we had to change it," says Allen. "But I don't view this as a crisis. It's a business challenge and we will attack it."
SELLING THE CHANGE
Allen's plan of attack had three major elements. One was an internal communications program to prepare and excite the firm's 3,500 employees about the name change. The second was six months of exhaustive research alongside branding consultancy Landor Associates to whittle a list of 2,500 possible names down to one. Finally, there's a $100 million marketing blitz that kicked off in July to generate awareness of the new brand.
Formed in 1983, Brink's Home Security generated $532 million in revenues last year from 1.3 million customers in the U.S. and Canada. Its home security systems, advertised widely on television, are sold by Brink's salespeople and also by a network of authorized dealers. While the recession has severely crimped sales of new homes—sales that often spur purchases of security services—it has also increased concerns about crime, which also motivates people to buy home protection. (Revenues for the company's first quarter were up 6% thanks to a 5.7% rise in subscribers.)
As part of the 2008 spinoff agreement, Allen and his team had up to three years to change the company's name, but he wanted to get it done quickly. What helped is that his employees, headquartered in Irving, Tex., never really considered themselves part of the parent company, which is based in Richmond. Va. The management team "actually had more angst over losing the brand name than our employees did," Allen says.
But just to make sure that employees felt a part of the process, Allen created a special site on the company's intranet called the Brand Center where he kept staffers apprised of recent developments. He also tapped about 50 employees as "brand ambassadors" to talk up the change and "keep the buzz going," Allen says.
The buzz largely centered around what the new name would be, a secret that Allen kept under wraps for months. In September he hired Landor Associates of San Francisco, which has done branding work for companies ranging from Coors ( (TAP)
) to Charles Schwab ( (SCHW)
). Landor did extensive research on the industry and also interviewed dozens of Brink's Home Security employees to get a sense of the corporate culture. The research told Allen that a significant segment of homeowners—about one in five—had a desire for security but never got around to purchasing a system. "Those are fields we are not plowing," Allen says.
As for the name itself, Allen first had to decide whether to license or purchase an existing brand, but dismissed those options as costly and risky. "You want to control your own destiny," he says. So Landor developed a list of 2,500 names, which was then culled down to about 50.
TAKING THE BROAD VIEW
Seven finalists emerged after vetting from the firm's lawyers, and Allen settled on Broadview for a variety of reasons. First off, it reflected the firm's extensive service offerings; "home" was removed from the name because that was seen as limiting the company's ability to capture corporate customers, which currently make up only 5% of its business.
The name Broadview, analysts say, is suggestive of "broadband," which alludes to the increasing availability of networked alarm systems that can, for example, alert parents at work via text message when a child enters or leaves the house.
Allen settled on the name in February, and then had to use cloak and dagger methods to keep it under wraps until its June 30 unveiling. (The term "Newco" was used in all communications regarding rebranding.) On that sweltering day in Texas, Allen formally announced the name by having three of the company's longest-tenured employees raise a new corporate flag.
Corporate transformation experts say Allen was smart to bring employees on board throughout the process. The most important thing during a spinoff is "to impart a compelling vision of the future that people can rally behind," says Sam Rovit, a partner at Bain's Corporate Renewal Group.
SPREADING THE WORD
Allen will try to rally customers behind the brand with a TV ad blitz that was recently expanded to 40 from 20 channels. The overall cost of the campaign, however, was lowered from between $100 million and $150 million to between $70 million and $120 million.
"As we got into the nitty-gritty, we realized that we could do this for less than $150 million," Allen says, which might make Broadview's ( (CFL)
) shareholders feel more secure as well. (Broadview is trading under the same ticker as was used for Brink's Home Security.) So far they've reacted positively—since the name change, Broadview's shares have risen more than a dollar and closed trading at $29.76 on July 20, near a 52-week high.
Says Allen: "You have to be very thoughtful about a new brand image. Luckily we did not have to make radical changes. We had a strong culture already. Remember, we are not the brand name. We are 3,500 people dedicated to doing what we do best."