Ms. Barnes, VP-corporate communications at Bayer Corp., was recruited to run the $35 million TV, radio, newspaper and magazine campaign that will reacquaint U.S. businesses and consumers with an entire family of products as Miles Inc. turns into Bayer Corp.
"We have an advantage, having a name that's a household word. But it's also a challenge to use this as a springboard to define a $28 billion company that produces and markets chemicals, healthcare products and so much more," says Ms. Barnes, 40.
In doing so, Ms. Barnes is trying to reverse more than 75 years of history. It was following World War I in 1918 that the U.S. government confiscated the rights to the name Bayer from German company Bayer AG, which had developed aspirin in 1899, as repayment for war debt. The government then sold the U.S. rights to Sterling Products.
In 1978, Bayer AG acquired Miles and, in April of this year, was able to reacquire its flagship aspirin brand, name and cross symbol, and other products, from SmithKline Beecham, which had bought the business from what was then Sterling Winthrop from Eastman Kodak Co.
Explaining just who corporate Bayer is to consumers is a tough task, and company officials are the first to emphasize that it won't be easy.
Market research showed more than 90% of consumers surveyed recognized the name Bayer, but fully 80% of those believe Bayer is only an aspirin.
"And we're much much more than that," says Ms. Barnes.
While the previous Miles name was well-known in the pharmaceutical industry, the research showed only 41% of consumers knew the company name.
After waiting so long to regain its name and signature brand, company officials are steadfastly committed to the ardous process of changing every product, package and ad.
According to John Scott, senior VP at Bayer agency Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, credited with creating the theme "We cure more headaches than you think," Bayer AG is "a very proud company..... determined to right that wrong" of losing its name in the U.S.
Yes, the company "wants the recognition of being one company," says Ms. Barnes.
The first print ads start the explanation process to consumers: "After all these years, we think it's time you called us by our first name: Bayer," concluding: "You've known us as Miles. Now, as you come to know us as Bayer, we hope you'll realize we're more than an aspirin company."
And by doing so, get rid of one big corporate headache.
Margo L. Barnes
Ad budget: $35 million
Agency roster: Foote, Cone & Belding
Career: A French major in college, Ms. Barnes landed her first job as editor in chief for Gazette Newspapers, a chain of community newspapers in Hobart, Ind., before joining LTV Steel Co. in 1979 as an assistant manager in communications. She served as director of corporate communications from 1984-85, then held corporate communications posts at three other companies (in Louisville, Dallas and Pittsburgh) before joining Bayer Corp.'s U.S. headquarters in mid-1995.