Feature Story

DuPont Focuses On Its Corporate Brand

Household name brands such as Coca-Cola Co., Campbell Soup Co., and Johnson & Johnson Inc. have long relied on their strong corporate identity to guarantee investment. However, a number of recent surveys by Stanford, Connecticut-based Corporate Branding LLC has shown that those widely recognized names seem to be losing ground to new technology companies such as Yahoo Inc.

To illustrate the decline, the top five corporate brands in 1998 all lost some of their sheen for investors in 1999 according to the company's research based on surveys of corporate executives. The company measures how familiar and favorable a particular company is to key decision-makers, defined as vice president or higher at the top 20 percent of U.S. corporations based on revenue. Comparing 1998 to 1999, Coca-Cola slipped from 83 to 77 while Microsoft Corp. fell from 77 to 74. While DuPont retained the top spot in the latest ranking of chemical companies, its brand weakened considerably, and Dow Chemical dropped from second to third place.

If well-known brands start losing their ability to woo investors by familiarity alone, companies that keep reintroducing themselves through frequent communication are likely to win out, Corporate Branding CEO James Gregory said. "The companies that consistently communicate and keep up a steady pace of all forms of communication, including investor relations, public relations and advertising, are the ones that really stand to benefit," he added.

Last September, he was critical of DuPont's brand strength on the heels of the Conoco IPO and Dow's potential merger with Union Carbide, one of the industry's perennially troubled brands.

In the spring, DuPont unveiled its "miracles of science" identity that replaced the "better things for better living" slogan. The company launched its new identity with a 12-page advertising insert in the Wall Street Journal. The initiative highlights the company's nearly 200-year history of product innovations in areas such as aerospace, agriculture, apparel, electronics and pharmaceuticals. It also alludes to the next generation of DuPont innovations. "'Better Things for Better Living' focused on our products, while the 'miracles of science' embodies our ability to make leaps that deliver science-based solutions for a better world," DuPont CEO Chad Holliday said.

Putting a new coat of paint on a proven commodity is a wise tactic to woo investors, Corporate Branding Associate Director Brad Puckey said. "The worst thing that the top performing brands can do is to try and mimic the success of the dotcom companies," he said.

In addition, sponsorships, such as DuPont's Jeff Gordon initiative, help keep the DuPont brand and DuPont products in the public consciousness. Branding is an important element of the company's strategy for sustainable growth, creating added value without major capital cost. In the past few years DuPont has promoted other aspects of its business on Gordon's car. Tyvek, Dow Elastomers, Herbicide, and Corian are just a few of the products on the decklid of Gordon's car throughout the Winston Cup season. For its initial investment in Gordon's team in 1992 with its Automotive Finishes brand, DuPont has seen exponential sales results. DuPont has also used sponsorship to promote its CoolMax high-performance fabric that can help the athletic performance of the people who wear it. The United States Postal Service (USPS) Cycling Team supplies riders with Pearl Izumi apparel made with DuPont CoolMax.

DuPont has also entered into an agreement to sponsor the eight-team DuPont WorldTeam Tennis professional league, as well as the DuPont WTT recreational league, which brings competitive tennis to more than one thousand communities nationally. In addition, DuPont will be an official sponsor of the annual WTT All-Star Smash Hits event, which benefits the Elton John AIDS foundation. "The DuPont sponsorship is vital to us," tennis legend Billie Jean King said recently. "DuPont stands for quality. For high-tech. I'm excited because I like the people, I like the company, and I think our relationship can grow through the years. Together we can make a difference in people's lives."

DuPont further promotes its corporate brand through the sponsorship of conferences. "Beyond Silicon 2000," a one-day conference in Boston, Massachusetts in June was sponsored by DuPont and DuPont i Technologies. The conference brought together some of the industry's leading technologists as well as business, science and technology media to explore the future of computing. As the title sponsor, the company's "miracles of science" exhibit was showcased. Support of initiatives such as "Beyond Silicon 2000" helps keep the DuPont brand front of mind with customers and other constituents.

Jeff Gordon Online

Copyright 2000 Jeff Gordon Online.
Copyright 2000 Larry Graff.
Do not redistribute without the author's permission.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of U.S. copyright law.
All rights reserved.