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July 25, 2002

5 Min Read
Branding: A new approach for molders and moldmakers

SM_Branding_Kelch.jpg

Websites should differentiate the company, and not just describe it. Kelch's goal is to position itself as a products firm rather than a molder.

When you think of branding, you usually think of products like Coca-Cola or McDonald's. Branding is the creation of that specific identity that, when the name is spoken, the product automatically comes to mind. It's the last thing a custom injection molding or moldmaking company thinks about when creating a marketing or sales strategy.

However, says Susan Ball, sales and marketing director for Plastikon Industries Inc. (Hayward, CA), it's a strategy that can work just as well for a molding or moldmaking company as it does for Pepsi. "Branding doesn't have to be about products," says Ball. "Branding can be an alternative method of keeping your firm right out in front of the customer and leaving it there."

Branding involves differentiating your company from the dozens or even hundreds of competitors out there who do basically the same thing you do. It means getting your brand so ingrained in the minds of customers and potential customers that they will think only of your company when someone says "molder" or "moldmaker," explains Ball.

Plastikon, for example, has been establishing its brand for many years. "The company intuitively understood that its new building, a 90,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art technology center, should speak to its brand," says Ball.

The facility exterior is emblazoned with two modern logos, like its other locations, to demonstrate the consistency of the Plastikon brand. Though it's not necessarily known throughout the country, Plastikon's customers and target market see a brand that describes many of its services and capabilities such as engineering, customer service, and value. Those are woven into the company's promotional materials to present a consistent message.

"Consistency is one of the keys to building your brand," says Ball. "Each and every area of the company must be formally integrated to be a part of this strategy."


SM_Branding_Plastikon.jpg

Outside Plastikon's new building, the company's brand is carried out in double signage.

Communicating a Brand
A big part of building a brand is communicating the right message to the right customers. Mary Scheibel, a principal with Scheibel Halaska (Milwaukee, WI), a PR and marketing firm, says that in her experience working with custom molders, the real value of a strategic, well-executed, brand-based program is often overlooked. "A quick review of molder websites will bear out that many are describing their companies rather than truly differentiating themselves from the competition.

"Therein lies both the good news and bad news," Scheibel continues. "In a marketplace earmarked by shrinking demand and increased competition, there will be winners and losers. We believe the winners will be those who can embrace change, rethink their value propositions, and position themselves in the marketplace in a compelling and differentiating way."

Kelch Corp. (Mequon, WI), a molder with a history of designing and manufacturing plastic products for holding and transferring fuel, made a conscious decision in the late 1990s to narrow its focus to fuel containment systems. "We had provided these products to leading OEMs for many years, but we also drew a significant portion of our business from contract molding other plastic parts," says Doreen Lettau, director of marketing and business development.

In a market littered with thousands of injection molders, Kelch knew it would be difficult and costly to differentiate itself from the crowd when going after different contract molding jobs. "We looked instead at whether it made more sense to focus our resources on fuel tanks, caps, gauges, and sensors," explains Lettau. "We found there was enough of an untapped market for us to continue growing the business by selling our core products without having to chase down unrelated contract molding work."

Kelch called upon its long-time relationship with Scheibel Halaska to help it communicate this new focus to its marketplace and employees. "Scheibel Halaska's work helped us reposition the Kelch brand in a way that reflects our strengths," Lettau says. "In particular, our brand is positioned in a way that lets us speak to the niche expertise we've built by designing and manufacturing plastic fuel tanks for more than 20 years, and caps, gauges, and sensors for more than 40."

Gaining a Position
Mary Scheibel sums up the company's goal: "Kelch wants to be known for its niche expertise, not as an injection molder, so the message to their market is, `We make fuel containment systems.' They're positioning themselves as a products company, not a molder."

Creating brand awareness and positioning in the marketplace are similar, but serve different purposes. "Branding is about differentiating," says Scheibel. "If you don't have some type of brand or compelling story about your unique value proposition, you're leveling the playing field. Your customers will think all molders or moldmakers are the same, so all you have to compete on is price." For instance, a molder's brand can include press tonnage, type of materials being run, or the products molded, adds Ball.

Positioning in the marketplace answers the question, "What is the space I want to occupy in the minds of my target audience?" Scheibel explains.

Ball says that a company's marketing plan is then built on company goals and objectives for getting the message to that target audience in a consistent way. "An integrated marketing plan shouts this message in everything considered controllable: public relations, every piece of paper that goes out the door, how your back lot looks, how the landscaping looks, how employees communicate."

It's really about inventing the company rather than "reinventing"—the new buzzword. Scheibel and Ball both agree that for most molding companies, defining who they are or what they do best is a challenge. "Decide what it is you want to be, and then how to get there," says Ball.

However, it's important to keep in mind that branding doesn't mean that you can't change or evolve as a company, Scheibel notes. "Your brand reputation can grow with you if you position your company correctly."

Contact information
Plastikon Industries Inc., Hayward, CA
Susan Ball; (510) 400-1124
www.plastikon.com
[email protected]

Scheibel Halaska, Milwaukee, WI
Mary Scheibel; (414) 272-6898
[email protected]

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