Brand established: 1919 (company founded as American Messenger Service in 1907)
2003 advertising: $172.2 million
Brand equity: $16.6 billion
CoreBrand ranking: No. 10
Ries: “UPS is a great brand name because it’s synonymous with ‘package delivery.’ When you think package delivery, you think first of UPS.”
Roth: “Their corporate positioning has always been about reliability.”
Gregory: “They are locked in a battle with FedEx that is the equivalent of the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry. Fascinating to watch from a branding perspective.”
Roth: “The big challenge is DHL coming after them saying they’re as good as they are, and there’s FedEx.”
For most people, United Parcel Service of America's brown trucks and brown-uniformed drivers embody the company's brand. But UPS has spent the last several years, quietly at first, waging a campaign to extend its brand far beyond the delivery of packages.
Since 1998, the Atlanta-based company has made 28 acquisitions, ranging from logistics and supply chain companies to Mail Boxes Etc., which it quickly rebranded as the UPS Store. With these additions, the company says, its capabilities have also changed.
"We were making sure that the brand really could catch up with the capabilities that we already had," said Larry Bloomenkranz, VP-brand management and advertising at UPS.
The company started the communications push for this "modernization of the brand," as Bloomenkranz called it, with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. UPS was a dominant advertiser during the Olympics telecast, introducing the "What Can Brown Do for You?" campaign. The ads, developed by the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., showed UPS as a logistics and supply chain company, not just one that transported boxes.
Over the past two years, UPS has continued the "What Can Brown Do for You?" advertising. In 2003, it added a new corporate tagline: "Synchronizing the world of commerce," which is also designed to drive home the idea of the new UPS.
That phrase targets senior management, and Bloomenkranz said internal research indicated that UPS has been effective in reaching this group. The company said it increased its non-package revenue by almost 100%, to $2.7 billion, in 2003. "Anecdotally," he said, "our sales staff tells us they're getting more and more requests [from executives] asking, `Tell us more about what you can do."'
With its acquisition of Mail Boxes Etc., which is now largely known as the UPS Store, the company made a big push into the small-business market-a venture that seemed astute enough that chief competitor FedEx followed up with a similar move, its purchase of Kinko's.
UPS' long sponsorship of a NASCAR team was also emulated by a relatively new competitor, DHL, which launched an aggressive campaign that included sponsorship of a NASCAR race, to take on UPS and FedEx.
Although some branding experts argue that extending a brand beyond shipping into supply chain logistics is a risky stretch, brand watchers such as CoreBrand say the UPS brand has shown no signs of flagging since launching the "Brown" campaign. Indeed, in the second quarter of 2004, UPS, with 19.1%, had the second-highest brand equity as a percentage of market capitalization, according to CoreBrand.