Meet Flex: Former HP CMO Michael Mendenhall Rebrands a New Company

Supply-Chain Company Flextronics Repositions as Flex

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Michael Mendenhall, who was previously CMO at HP and also spent 17 years at Walt Disney Co., is leading a rebranding effort at Flextronics, a $26 billion supply-chain solutions company that is relaunching today as Flex.

Michael Mendenhall
Michael Mendenhall

Mr. Mendenhall, who left HP in 2011 to become CMO at Fusion-io, a flash memory technology company that was later sold to SanDisk, has been in his role as chief marketing and communications officer at Flextronics since last October.

In an interview with Ad Age, he discussed the rebranding effort and how Flex is working with other marketers to take products to market using the "intelligence of things."

Advertising Age: How has Flextronics changed as a business?

Mr. Mendenhall: Over the last 40 years, the company has evolved from a contract manufacturer to an electronics manufacturing company to an end-to-end supply-chain solutions company. The next phase is the digitization of products -- what most people call the IoT or the internet of things -- this idea of adding products and solutions and capabilities that go from "sketch to scale."

You will see more open innovation, where people partner in the innovation of products. So we become the brand behind the brand that focuses on core technologies to make things more connected. What everyone is calling the IoT, we like to call the 'intelligence of things." We now offer concepting, design, engineering, manufacturing and logistics. We build smart components that are stacked into centers of excellence that provide capabilities to digitize products.

Ad Age: Which industries do you serve?

Mr. Mendenhall: We are in 12 different industries, doing over $1 billion in each of those industries, whether it's energy, automotive, medical, consumer, connected world, transportation, aerospace, defense -- anything that is really about connecting and building intelligence into products. We have over 3,000 design engineers that work in locations around the world, where we co-innovate with brands that come to us to take their products to market.

Ad Age: What are some of the brands you work with?

Mr. Mendenhall: Google – we co-innovated and manufactured and took to market the Chromecast. We work with Ford Motor Co. and are thinking about semi-autonomous vehicles. Beyond just building automotive vehicles, Ford is all about mobility. They really understand that the world of transportation is changing rapidly, and we are working with them. Cisco is another very large partner of ours.

Ad Age: Why are you rebranding as Flex?

Mr. Mendenhall: We were an electronics company in EMS [electronics manufacturing services]. As we moved the strategy of the company and all of its capabilities and solution sets, we found that the "tronics" part of Flextronics was dated relative to the corporate strategy of the company, and it left people thinking we were still an electronics manufacturing company.

There are two things we have to solve for here. One is certainly awareness -- who is this company? And the other is the context around what the products and solution sets are, and what is the value proposition.

Ad Age: What does the rebranding effort include?

Mr. Mendenhall: It includes everything in the company -- a legal name change, a new identity package, a new brand package, a new set of communications architecture and brand architecture, and a new tagline. The new tagline is "Live Smarter." Our idea of "Live Smarter" really embodies the vision and mission of the company, which is that we bring intelligence to everything we do, whether it is a solution set, a product or how we go about designing something.

Ad Age: What about advertising?

Mr. Mendenhall: All of our customers are b-to-b. So what's critical for us relative to advertising is sponsorships, digital marketing, lead generation, nurturing the sales funnel, and actually producing products in a very interesting way that engage current customers and potential customers. Those channels will tend to be mainly digital, certainly social, they will lend themselves to our website, and there will be certain other one-off advertising pieces we will do relative to b-to-b.

White papers and content are also incredibly important to b-to-b marketers. So we have created, as part of this campaign, a print and digital magazine that is titled "Intelligence," which reflects current trends within the different industries in which we work. We go out and hire legitimate journalists in their fields to write very independent stories about the big topics around IoT. For example, this month there is a cover story on autonomous cars, and what are the innovations that have come from this.

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