Mack Trucks Gives Bulldog New Leash On Life

It's not exactly a consumer brand, but Mack Trucks is an iconic name. The company, which has been around for 114 years, is doing a total rebranding, via Chicago-based VSA Partners. It includes messaging and new visual brand guidelines around the bulldog image and the "Mack Trucks" wordmark. And a new tagline, "Born Ready." Also on deck are a Web site redesign and an ad push, as well as video assets and new trade-show elements. 

"We are re-amplifying and re-clarifying what's great about Mack," says John Walsh, VP/marketing at the Greensboro, N.C.-based company. "We are articulating purpose, promise, and persona. It's trucks designed for jobs customers need them for. That's always been our approach to business." 

He tells Marketing Daily that the message boils down to Mack being an American truck you can count on. The company is focusing advertising in the trade press, "but we have also been focused on integrated and multichannel and a lot is on the digital side now," he says, adding that Mack is running video content about the brand and pop-up ads beyond the endemic trade content: the company has advertising buys with the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. "We are putting more spend into digital as the demographics of the industry change."

Walsh says the brand needs a makeover for a couple of reasons. "First, when you are a 114-year-old company, the brand can wander a bit; right now, if you look at product and communications, you will see a number of iterations of the bulldog and the wordmark. It's a confusing message, so we are simplifying. The second thing is how well positioned we are for success in the market." 

He says that since 2010 the company invested $64 million in its Hagerstown, Md. plant; $20 million in its manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania; and last year the company spent $10 million on upgrading its tech center in Greensboro and has invested heavily in R&D. He says the company and dealers have invested $300 million in recent years in its network of 428 dealerships. "So the timing is good for a very strong message."

But, Walsh concedes, Mack Trucks hasn't hit its market-share sweet spot. Right now, the company has about 8% share in commercial trucks with most of it in the refuse hauler business, where it has 80% share. He says construction is also a key piece of the business "but that has been depressed for some time." 

The opportunity is where Mack Trucks probably has the biggest equity in American culture: 18-wheeler, long-haul trucks. "But it hasn't been a focus of late. And that's about half of the market. Our focus right now is to stay strong where we are strong and make inroads into long haul. We are very well positioned to do that," says Walsh.

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