Building products company USG Corp., which is emerging from a rocky five years, this month introduced a new brand identity and tagline, “It's your world. Build it.”
Founded as U.S. Gypsum Co. in 1902, the Chicago-based business was hit hard by the recession, which devastated the construction industry beginning in 2008.
“Over the past five years, it has been a difficult time for us,” said Linda McGovern, VP-marketing at USG, which is best known as the maker of Sheetrock-brand building products. “We've had drastic reductions and have had to think about ways to drive efficiencies.”
USG has laid off approximately 4,800 employees over the past five years, and its stock price plunged from almost $40 a share in April 2008 to a low of $4.29 in March 2009.
Now, the company is experiencing a rebound. Second-quarter revenue reached $916.0 million, up 15% over the same period last year; net income for the quarter was $25.0 million, compared with a net loss of $57.0 million in the year-earlier period. USG's stock was trading around $27 a share at press time.
“About five to six years ago, the [construction] industry and economy started going into a significant downturn,” McGovern said. “We decided to focus internally. For us to deliver on the promise of our brand, we really had to think about who we are.”
Jim Gregory, CEO of brand strategy consultancy CoreBrand, noted that USG's brand familiarity and brand favorability have seen large drop-offs. According to CoreBrand's Brand Power annual reports, brand familiarity with USG has steadily declined from a score of 29 (on a scale from one to 100) in 2000 to a score of four in 2012. (The building materials industry average score was 12 last year.) Brand favorability (among those familiar with the USG brand) has fallen from 63 in 2005 to 31 in 2012; the industry average was 48 last year.
“I don't think USG really stands for anything these days,” Gregory said. “They really need to help people understand the meaning behind the letters. I'm not sure their new campaign will help unless they have a long-term commitment to rebuilding their brand. This decay took a long time, and it will take a long time to rebuild the brand.”
Working with branding agency Lippincott, New York, USG started doing extensive research with its target audiences—such as building contractors, architects and installers—about five years ago.
“We started a journey of how we think about ourselves as a unified, global brand, and what the brand means to our customers, partners and distributors,” McGovern said.
“A common thread is that every individual expressed pride in the role they play in building a finished space where people can work and play. This led us to the core brand promise and the core idea to start to reshape the organization and move us forward.”
The major brand relaunch is only the third in USG's history, McGovern said. The last was in the 1970s, under the tagline “Building America.”
Since then, USG has focused primarily on product-related advertising, such as its award-winning “The Weight Has Been Lifted” campaign from gyro Chicago for its Sheetrock brand of drywall.
The brand relaunch, rolled out on Oct. 1, includes a redesigned global website (www.usg.com) developed by BGT Partners, Chicago. It is supported by an integrated campaign using print, online, social and PR. gyro Chicago handled creative, and Tell Your Story, Chicago, was responsible for social media and PR.
Concurrent with the brand relaunch, USG and its Canadian subsidiary, CGC Inc., announced a four-year sponsorship, respectively, of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams and the Canadian Olympic Team.
Under the terms of the sponsorship, USG and CGC are the official building materials sponsors of Team USA and the Canadian Olympic Team, respectively. L&W Supply Corp., USG's distribution subsidiary, is the official building materials provider to Team USA.
“This is the first time we've done an Olympic partnership,” McGovern said. “What Olympians go through is similar to the journey USG has been on: How do they innovate around training, prepare mentally for the game, understand their competition, go through setbacks and sometimes change their game plan and do things differently.”
She also said USG's core values of integrity, service, innovation, diversity, safety, efficiency and quality are aligned with the Olympic and Paralympic ideals.
USG unveiled the new campaign internally to employees with an event at the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., the weekend before the public announcement.
“We wanted to make sure this was not just a CEO initiative, and we wanted to make sure we had vital support for the launch of the brand,” McGovern said. “One of the core tenets is the notion of leadership at every level; no matter what your role is, you have the ability to influence people around you.”
With that in mind, USG selected 40 employee ambassadors from different departments in different offices around the globe and invited them to the internal brand launch. The event at USOC headquarters included a torch-lighting ceremony as well as extensive training on how to communicate the new brand.
“They can take this back to their organizations and talk about the brand and what it means to be a partner in the USOC,” McGovern said.