Conventional wisdom says branding is for external communication; it aims to influence current and prospective customers. But this view of branding is too narrow, especially when a company is trying to fundamentally redefine its business strategy.
|“For companies trying to shift from selling goods and services to offering higher-margin customized solutions, branding can serve a powerful internal purpose.”|
Five years ago, we established the Construction Information Group to tie together six strong, existing brands representing McGraw-Hill’s construction-related service companies and publications: F.W. Dodge, Architectural Record, Sweet’s Product News, Engineering News-Record (ENR), Design-Build, and construction.com. Our strategy at the time was to loosely endorse each of the brands in association with the Construction Information Group name. But we rapidly found that just creating an organizational layer and tacking it onto our brands was not enough to motivate our people to collaborate, or to gain new attention in the market.
A Unified Brand
Building product manufacturers (BPMs, companies that produce windows, doors, paints, etc. and sit in the middle of the commercial construction food chain) are less and less interested in buying products or plain-vanilla services. Increasingly, they want integrated solutions, including help in marketing their products through our advertising vehicles online and offline, projecting information through our databases that will help them target leads, and distributing product information to various end-user segments. The trouble was that managers handling each of our existing brands continued to pursue their own goals independently, leaving the “solution sale” out of the discussion with the customer.
|“The equity of the old brands remained intact in a system designed to channel future equity into the unified brand.”|
- Use one of the strongest existing brands — Sweet’s Product News or F.W. Dodge — as the name of the entire collection.
- Create a new name for the collection of brands, an appealing way to signal major change internally and externally.
- Use the most recognizable brand name — McGraw-Hill — in the new name, strongly emphasizing its value above the prior collection of brands.
After some testing, we concluded that the first option risked creating winners and losers internally, a dubious way to achieve collaboration. It also didn’t supply a sufficiently strong external message about our new approaches. And creating a new brand looked to be expensive. The McGraw-Hill name already had an image with the broadest range of customers, and had the best potential to pull the separate business units together. Choosing the third option, we came up with the name McGraw-Hill Construction. With it, the equity of the old brands remained intact in a system designed to channel future equity into the unified brand.